Beyond Words

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

Listen and Learn June 29, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:34 pm

There’s a lot of shouting going on out there. Yelling seems to be the current method of getting your message heard but sadly, some are yelling so loud and so much that many have literally stopped hearing them. The anger and hate is deafening and many are turning a deaf ear on what is hoped to be heard and in some cases, should be heard. Maybe for a minute, we should all stop screaming and instead start listening.

 

 

But, people in general just aren’t good listeners. We would much rather be talking. And posting. And commenting.  We seem to value speaking and being heard over listening and understanding. If by chance we do listen, it’s often just to set up our opinion or argument. We are living in a very politically and socially charged season right now and everyone has strong opinions they feel are the only opinions and more importantly, the only right opinions. As a wise friend once told me though, there are two sides to every story (and opinion): one side, the other side, and the truth. Think about that for a minute.

 

Think also about the oldie but goodie “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Rather then saying something demeaning or insulting, try breathing and listening. If you can’t be positive, be quiet. The silent majority often wins the battle even though some would have you believe all those squeeky wheels get the oil. Oil is slimy. Silence is golden.

 

 

Everywhere you look today someone has something to say but rarely hears what else is being said. Making our point is the goal, as is convincing others to approve what we believe and proving we are right by golly and you are wrong. End of story. End of post. End of any chance of agreement, reconciliation, or truce.

 

 

In short, we are good at talking but not so good at listening. Effective listening is an art; a learned skill. It is not something that’s arrived at easily or naturally, but it is an asset like no other. What if we just stopped for a minute to listen to others; really listen. Instead of planning and plotting our agenda and getting our points known, how about we work on truly understanding and comprehending another person’s position? As the Peace Prayer of St. Francis entreats, seek not so much to be understood as to understand. Something so simple and so benevolent could be the solution as we all strive for unity and acceptance.

 

It’s no secret that the quieter you become the more you can hear. We all want to be heard and are hearing a lot right now but much of it is falling on deaf ears because it’s being screamed at us in an unreceptive scolding tone. It’s also become non-stop screaming, which no one will listen to for very long. No one likes to be yelled at and everyone likes to be listened to.

 

Listening to others actually presents one with a win-win situation. Much of what we say is often misunderstood, which leads to conflict, frustration, and even disillusionment, as is so evidenced today. But, when you actively and respectfully listen to others, it encourages respect for both you and your opinion and a reciprocal level of listening back. In the perfect world course. There will be some…many probably…who no matter how much you listen to their side and opinion they will never listen to yours but if they don’t, it’s on them.

 

 

Listening is quite frankly the key to effective communication. You can yak away your position, but unless who you’re yaking to listens, it’s all for not. Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument. Some might say listening demonstrates weakness but I’m of the belief that smart people don’t plan big moves out loud. They let their success be their noise and know full well that silence is not a weakness. “Listen and learn” is real advice and real true.

 

 

To be a good listener, make who you’re listening to feel heard and maybe even understood. Make sure everyone feels safe in the conversation and focus on the speaker as they speak. In today’s online age, this is often impossible to do, but remember that when someone is stressed or insulted by what is being said or written, they are more likely to mishear or misread what you’re trying to get across. Never, ever try to convey emotions over the internet or texting and remember that feelings are never wrong. If what you say or write hurts someone’s feelings, your point is defeated. No one cares if you make them mad, but they do care if you hurt their feelings.

 

 

Lastly, pay close attention to who you’re listening to. There are many false prophets out there and you never want to take advice from someone you don’t respect. As you listen, present feedback in a polite yet informed manner and asks questions before submitting opinion or argument. Listen closely to what is being said and if there’s any doubt as to what the point is, repeat back what was said.

 

God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so He must have been on to something. A big part of loving is listening and a big part of praying is listening. God is constantly speaking to us but unlike us, he doesn’t scream so we need to be listening. When in prayer, we’re quick to present our petitions but do we ever sit still and listen to or for God? We’re good at talking to Him but not so good at talking with Him. Not bad advice when it comes to others as well.

 

 

I’d like to suggest that just for a day, maybe a week, or how about a month, try talking with people not talking to them. And talk to those whose opinions and outlooks differ from yours. Give them chance and give them a listen. You might just listen and learn.

 

 

Downward Dogs June 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:13 pm

We’re all in need of a little therapy these days aren’t we? My therapy consists of daily prayer and meditation, a good book or series, outdoor activities like golf and walking, and yoga. Yoga centers and calms me and like a former teacher once said, “We don’t use our body to get into a pose, we use a pose to get into our body.” My goal is not to do headstands, but to keep from being a stiff old lady who can’t bend, stretch, walk, or climb. I keep bending so I don’t break. In more ways than one.

 

Dogs also calm me and this morning the two…yoga and dogs…united in a most magical way.

 

Setting up for my online Mindful Vinyasa Flow class with the fabulous Nikki, all three of my dogs decided to join me. Normally I’d shoo them away, close the door, and practice dog-free. For some reason today however, all three of them seemed very calm, and in their own dog-like ways, very mindful. They each found a spot in the room and quietly laid down. Nikki often has her dog join us so I thought what the heck? And I’m doggone glad I did!

 

With Boomer perched on the bed, Nikki (one of my dogs, not my yoga instructor, but how foretelling that their names are spelled the same, which is not the standard spelling?!) in her little bed, and Barry snuggled alongside my mat, we all settled in for a little namaste. All during the class I was feeling a little upper body stiff and when it came time to twist on the floor and stretch, I found myself wishing I had yoga blocks. I don’t always use them and when I did, I just used ones in my class’s studio, but I kinda felt like I needed to move the ground up to rest my bent knees as they twisted to the right. As I did so, I felt Barry was right there and so I used him as a block. I didn’t think it would go well because Barry is the most skittish of our three rescues and I thought he would immediately startle and move away.

 

But he didn’t.

 

Instead, he stayed right next to me and continued to allow my knees to rest on him. It warmed my heart and took the term “downward dog” to a whole new level! I shared all of this with Nikki and fellow class attendees when class was over and we all admitted that none of us were really surprised. As Nikki said, dogs have a way of knowing what we’re feeling and what we need.

 

 

In fact, research suggests that dogs may actually possess and experience empathy, that psychological ability to feel someone else’s emotions. Barry convinced me of this today. He felt my need for support and steadily offered it.

 

A study published in the journal “Learning & Behavior” found that dogs who heard their owners call “HELP!” is a distressed tone opened a magnet-sealed door to reach them faster and more urgently than when they heard the same owners recite a nursery rhyme. Think about it. How many times have we seen dogs nuzzle up to a baby, protect their owner, rescue someone trapped, and go canine crazy after being reunited with an owner? They know. They feel.

 

This is also confirmed by Aaron McDonald, a canine behaviorist, dog trainer, and author of “Three Dimensional Dog: A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior,” who told “Eating Well” magazine, “Dogs are always keenly attuned to everything going on in a family. They record every nuance of ‘normal’ life and become concerned if we break that pattern.” He goes on to say that yelling distresses them even when it’s not directed at them, which is something my household needs to consider especially during football season!

 

I’ve often wondered during the whole COVID quarantine whether our three dogs have noticed that we are home all the time now. All the time. All day and night. From what Mr. McDonald said, they do and I’m of the thinking that they love it!

 

 

The above photo is one of Barry “holding hands” with our daughter who was home with us for 2 1/2 months earlier this summer working from home. When I saw it, I was shocked and so was she as Barry hates it when you touch or try to hold onto his paws. For some reason, he didn’t mind that day at that time. Did he sense a bit of anxiety in our daughter or perhaps he himself felt a a tad unsettled with our home’s “new normal” and the simple touch was easing. I’ll never know but I know it meant something. Something sweet and something special.

 

 

One last interesting dog connection I recently came across comes from none other than the Bible and the story about Lazarus, who demonstrated the consummate level of humiliation during those times as he was covered in sores and scorned by all. Jesus, of course, heals him but not before we read that “dogs came and licked his sores.” Some would suggest that those dogs were the original therapy dogs, including a Dominican Priest who wrote the article I read. I love this idea and something else he wrote: the Latin root words for “Dominican” are “domini” and “canis,” or “dog of the Lord. Makes total sense to me being that GOD and DOG are the same word spelled backwards!

 

 

If you know me you know. I’m a dog person so it only makes sense that one of the closest to my heart philanthropies that I try to support at all costs is “Hounds for Heroes,” which focuses on healing the wounds of war by healing veterans and their families through programs that incorporate the powerful human/canine bond. The multi-faceted and amazing program features service dogs, emotional support dogs, companion dogs, veterans helping fellow veterans, as well as professional service dog trainers and counseling. To watch a successful match develop and unfold is truly phenomenal.

 

Today Barry showed me something phenomenal too…that a dog who is skittish about almost everything knew when he was needed and calmly attended to the need and asked nothing in return. He did what we humans should do every day. I’m pretty sure this dog-eat-dog world would be much better for it.

 

 

Dogs are indeed amazing animals. Here are just a few fun facts about my favorite four-legged animals:

  • Dogs are healers. Simply caring for a dog can reduce anxiety, brighten a mood and reduce stress.
  • One study showed that within 10 minutes of looking into a dog’s eyes or petting a dog, the brain gets neurochemical bursts of oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine and endorphins, all chemicals that make us happy and relax us.
  • Other studies suggest that living with a dog reduces the symptoms and severity of depression and also boosts one’s immune system, reduces blood pressure, and lowers heart rates.
  • A British hospital actually “prescribes” a dog for patients who have suffered heart attacks and has found the chances of a second heart attack in them dropped 400 percent!
  • A study published by “Pediatrics” journal found that children who live with dogs during their first year of life got sick less often than kids from dog-less homes. The research revealed that the dirt and microbes brought in the house by Fido actually bolster helpful bacteria in a child’s immune system.
  • Babies who live with dogs are 31 percent more likely to be in good health than those who don’t, 44 percent less likely to develop ear infections, and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics during their first year of life.
  • Owning a dog is known to help you better maintain an active lifestyle and retain a healthy weight.  Dog owners are said to be both emotionally and physically healthier and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Dogs are said to be able to see things we cannot, as my friend can attest to following the deaths of her mom and dad. Her dog, she says, would look up in their bedroom and stare for minutes as if something or someone was up there. There are many similar reports of dogs doing this.
  • It is said that when a dog sees its owner its brain secretes the same substances ours do when we are in love. In short, your dog is truly in love with you!

 

 

Bird Sightings and Shoulder Taps June 23, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:26 pm

Sitting outside on our back patio the other day I saw a beautiful bright red male cardinal in a tree in our yard. We have lived in our “new” home for four years now, and I can’t think of one time I’ve seen a cardinal. We have lots of birds, squirrels, deer, and even a fox or two but cardinals not so much. I found this somewhat surprising when we moved here, as our last house was home to many a cardinal and it’s not all that far from our current home. So, like I do so well, I thought about it and analyzed what a rare cardinal sighting might mean.

 

 

I’d always heard cardinals represent a loved one who has passed and that when you see one, it means they are visiting you. I found it interesting to learn that they usually show up when you need them or miss them the most. But, I hadn’t recently lost anyone. I did however, have a friend who had just lost a beloved aunt and I immediately reach out to her to share my cardinal sighting story. Still, the “lost love one” theory didn’t personally move me or give me an “aha” moment. Until I read further.

 

Come to find out dear daddy cardinals also make appearances during times of celebration or despair. Bingo. I have been in despair and was in a somewhat disparaging mood as I sat outside that day. Who isn’t in despair right now, right? Nothing has gone on in my personal life or with any family members but our country is currently full of despair and destruction and it’s wearing me down. I’m tired of the news, I’m tired of the posting, and I’m tired of worry and anxiety. I’m. Just. Tired.

 

 

Thankfully, two co-workers and I agreed to meet for an outdoor visit at one of their homes this week. I miss these ladies so much and it was so nice to just catch up and laugh. We sat in my friend’s beautiful backyard and guess what showed up? Countless cardinals! It gave me chills and it made me happy. I felt like maybe, just maybe, they’re actually also good luck charms and the gloom and doom is about to change much like the season had just changed from spring to summer. Finger’s crossed, right?

 

Turns out, it is believed that whoever sees a cardinal will have good luck either at noon, midnight, or within 12 days of the sighting. I’m not sure what would qualify as “good luck” right now in my life, but just learning this cheered me up and gave me a bit of hope.

 

On top of that, spiritually a red cardinal sighting is a message from God who wants your attention and in a positive way. In addition, both cardinals and blood have long been symbols of vitality and in a Christian context, the cardinal is a symbol of life, hope, and restoration.

 

Hope and restoration.  I’m in need of both and I’m paying attention!

 

 

Just yesterday I got a video of hope and encouragement from my director. She sent out an update on what’s going on at work and included a video titled “Shoulder Taps.” In it, a man talks about seeing an elderly woman at a restaurant when a voice inside him tells him to go tell her how pretty she looks. He does so and is floored by what she says. “I know you and I know your spirit,” she tells him. “My husband died a year ago today and that’s something he would have said.” Needless to say, the man was speechless. He thought about it and concluded that God taps us on the shoulder and uses us at just the right moment. Whether we listen and feel those shoulder taps is up to us.

 

 

His story reminded me of a lunch my daughter and I were having many years ago when she was in high school. Sitting in a restaurant we notice a group of what looks like middle-school aged girls. All of them except one are pretty and have the air of “popular girls.” The one who doesn’t looks quiet and nervous. My daughter notices this and remembers suffering at the hand of middle school mean girls herself so as we walk out, she goes up to the table, looks right at the quiet girl and tells her how much she loves her top and how pretty she is. I’m not sure whose faces dropped more: the nervous young girl’s or those of the others sitting with her. Here is a pretty high school girl coming up and complimenting the one girl at the table who probably never got compliments. Shoulder tap? I’m thinking yes.

 

Courtesy Susie Davis

Maybe all those cardinals I’ve been seeing are shoulder taps or as I sometimes call them,“God winks.” I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of anything that can replace the blind hate and unchecked criminality destroying our nation and I’m loving the idea that a simple bird brought with it true hope for restoration and healing. I’m giving it a wing and a prayer.

 

Our Fathers June 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:43 pm

I recently read something that said one’s relationship with their dad is often the same relationship they have with God. If you have a caring, loving, and nurturing relationship with your dad, you’re likely to have that same type of relationship with God. On the other hand, if you share a more strict and measured connection with your dad, that’s probably how you see God.

 

Do you agree?

 

 

I gotta say AMEN as the relationship I had with my dad before he passed away my senior year of college is somewhat similar to how I was raised to worship God. Born a cradle Catholic, my faith as a child and young adult was one of strict rules and a “because I said so” mentality. Same when it came to household rules and fatherly advice. I didn’t know why I believed certain things or why I had to obey and respect my dad, I just knew it’s what you did. I didn’t question. I didn’t doubt. I was okay with it and turned out relatively okay.

 

It wasn’t until my dad was up in heaven with our Father and I became a bill-paying adult and parent that I begin to grasp the whys and the hows. I was able to maturely consider just how much my dad sacrificed for me and how very much our Lord sacrificed for all of us. Today my relationship with God is much more personal and reflective yet still respectful and indebted.

 

 

In much the same way, our daughter’s relationship with God mimics her relationship with her dad. “I love him dearly. He provides for me and is always there for me but I’m not going to get all touch-feely about it all.” That, pretty much sums up her relationship with her father and with the Father. She knows she has a loving dad who is always there for her and a loving God who is too and she loves them both.

 

Amazing, right?

 

 

It is said that 80 percent of everything children learn in their first 12 years of life is done so through their eyes. To all you dads out there, what are your children seeing on a daily basis? Are they seeing respect and love or are they seeing distance and indifference? What are you allowing them to see on TV and social media? What events do you take them to and what behaviors do they see among you and your friends? The role of fathers in society has never been more crucial then now as we continue to see the growing and often tragic results of “stay away” dads. We have generations of kids without fathers or with an absence of fatherly figures. We blame society but we are society so it’s time to step up dads and men. All eyes on you!

 

 

In Spain and other countries, fathers are celebrated on the Feast of St. Joseph. The thought is St. Joseph is the perfect example of what a respectable father should be. He showed up. He supported. He loved. I like this idea and often times pray to St. Joseph for my husband, my dad, and other dads.

 

 

As we celebrate Father’s Day today, let’s honor all those dads who gave us life as well as those who show us how to live. Take a minute to not only appreciate them but also how to reflect on whether those relationships mimic your relationship with God. Then, pray for fathers everywhere by saying the “Our Father,” but do so with new eyes in the following way:

 

I cannot say “Our” if my life has no room for others and their needs

I cannot say “Father” if I do not believe in Him

I cannot say “who art in heaven” if all I care about are earthly things

I cannot say “hallowed by Thy name” if I use the Lord’s name in vain

I cannot say “thy kingdom come” if I don’t take time to pray

I cannot say “thy will be done” if I’m distrustful and anxious

I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I worry more about what others think of me than what God thinks of me

I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” without giving to others first

I cannot say “forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” if I hold grudges and don’t forgive others

I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I stay in situations where I know I’ll be tempted

I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I’m not spiritually prepared to fight the fight

I cannot say “for thine is the kingdom” if I don’t obey the commandants

I cannot say “thine is the power” if I’m unwilling to let Him control things rather than trying to control everything myself

I cannot say “thine is the glory” if I seek glory for myself first

I cannot say “Amen” unless I believe

 

Can I get an AMEN and a Happy Father’s Day?!

 

 

 

Hope and Faith in What Seems Hopeless June 14, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:00 pm

I’m in the process of learning a new skill that is pretty intimidating to me and the woman who’s teaching it to me sent me the above screenshot as we were getting started. She knows me so well. Nope, I don’t like change very much, my living space is something I design as a place of comfort and coziness, and yep I love me a good spa day.

 

Change is the word of the day though, right? Everything has changed and everything is still changing. First we were instructed to lock ourselves in our homes for months only to later be permitted to protest, riot, and loot in crowds practicing anything but social distancing and self-isolating. It’s a scary world out there and getting scarier by the minute.

 

 

It’s also the “new normal” they say, but the “new” seems to become ever more “new” on a daily basis. As spiritual mamma and mentor Susie Davis recently wrote, some days the new normal is fun and some days it’s tiresome. She’s learned along the way that finding a new normal requires comfort in perhaps ways you never realized before and takes heaping doses of patience, curiosity, and courage. It’s not easy to step into something new she explains, and it can be scary to leave behind what you know. But, we will get through this she assures us. I trust her and most of all I trust her faith.

 

I also have faith and I have hope. I have faith that everything is in God’s hands and I hope that if I do so I will see His hand in everything. But these are trying times and there’s more to hope and faith than that.

 

 

Often intertwined but dissimilar, faith and hope are equally powerful and empowering. The dictionary defines faith as “confidence or trust in a person or thing or a belief not based on proof.”  Hope is defined as “an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation or desire.” To simplify, hope is a feeling of expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen while faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Hope always pertains to the future while faith is all about now. Faith gives our hope substance and hope keeps our faith alive. Some say faith is actually based on hope in that if there’s no hope, there’s no faith. Faith is in your heart and you could say hope is the soil in which we plant our faith.

 

 

Then, there’s hope vs. hopefulness, and there is a difference. Much like the difference in what you might read the photo above says. Do you see “God is now here” or “God is nowhere?” Perspective, right. Similarly, “Greater Things Today” suggested reading three statements along the lines of these:

 

I hope healing will come

I know God will bring healing

God is a healer

 

All three demonstrate different levels of positivity and trust and the difference between merely being hopeful, possessing hope, and having faith. The first statement is hopeful in that it is filled with wishful thinking but still clouded with doubt and fear. The second statement, although more confident, expresses hope yet still a hint of doubt, especially if you add “but” at the end. The third statement is certain and is faith-filled.

 

 

So where am I going with this? Our novel and ever-evolving “new normal” is causing anxiety, fear, and worry but if we have hope and we have faith, some of those scary things can be somewhat reduced if not eliminated altogether. Courtney Carver writes that she sees these unsettled times as a time of “waiting, wondering, and creating” and is taking the time to see things through a new lens and a lens that is not hurried or certain or even exactly as it will be. Maybe a lens filtered with faith and hope and not worry or fear?

 

 

Now is not the time to give up hope. Instead, keep hoping for hope and trusting. We are all individually seeing many enemies out there and if you haven’t, just turn on the news or check social media. So much hate. So much disrespect. So much division. But in truth, we ALL have only one enemy and that enemy is enjoying every minute of the discourse and destruction and is laughing out loud. It all comes down to us…you, me, I. And as Life.Church so eloquently said today, the difference between UNITED and UNTIED is simply where you place the I. Where is your I? Is it firmly planted in an “I am right” position or an “I preach hate masked as all-knowing stance?” Are you uniting with your posts and positions or are you untying what little hope there is left?

 

 

As we all continue to witness and/or experience current or past unemployment, isolation, hate, vandalism, illness, and even death, I for one will continue to have hope that cooler heads will prevail and that the new normal will be one filled with a true faith that can move mountains. Will you take that first step and climb with me? I’m hopeful.

 

Just Breathe May 31, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:13 pm

 

Breathe. One word. A word that usually signifies life but currently represents just the opposite as cities across our nation burn. It’s the word George Floyd uttered again and again as a Minneapolis police officer killed him. I don’t know all, none of us do, but I do know that as a nation we need to collectively stop the rioting – both in our cities and in our hearts – and take a deep breath.

 

Breathe.

 

As God would have it, today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the day Jesus was gathered with His disciples when suddenly a violent wind filled the house they were in. They became frightened but Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He breathed on them.

 

Breathe deep.

 

Often depicted as “tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them,” the Holy Spirit reading presents powerful imagery today as we watch fires destroy cities and businesses; businesses that just started opening back up after COVID-19 closures. It’s an imagery not lost on me and one that speaks volumes.

 

 

   

 

The Holy Spirit is often thought of as the love part of the Holy Trinity; the love between Father and Son and the love bestowed upon those to share with others. In addition to love, the Holy Spirit works in us through the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; the first being presence of God at work in us and the latter being the “matured fruits” and the Holy Spirit creating in us the good habits, virtues, and deeds for us to possess and demonstrate. Without getting too deep, the opposite consists of the “bitter fruits” such as jealousy, strife, anger, etc.  And yes, these are Biblical, listed by Paul in Galatians.

 

Since George Lloyd’s tragic death, we have witnessed an array of “bitter fruits” displayed in cities coast-to-coast. Sadly, what started out as rightly deserved peaceful protests of a wrong-doing and long-standing injustice has enfolded into violence-filled riots that do nothing to advance a cause that so desperately needs across-the-board support. Looting, vandalism, and anger do not breathe life into it all. If anything, they deflate cooperation and breathe the life out of it.

 

 

Ironically, on that first Pentecost when the disciples “began to speak in other tongues,” the entire group was amazed and wondered how it was that they could all understand each other. You see, the gathering was one of very diverse people; many with their own native languages, customs, and cultures. And yet suddenly, they could miraculously understand each other even though they were different. They were different.

 

And got along.

 

If all of this doesn’t take your breath away, you may need to check your pulse.

 

 

Check your motives today as well as you watch the news. Then look in the mirror. Are you a builder of harmony and unity or a judger with words and stones? The voices of both the Holy Spirit and George Floyd are powerful yet gentle. Let’s be like them.

 

Webster defines the verb “breathe” as to draw air into and expel from the lungs; to inhale and exhale. We often say a wine needs to “breathe” in order to develop its flavor and bouquet by exposure to air. We also use the word to express or utter something as when we say “Don’t breathe a word about it.”

 

George Floyd was denied his right to breathe and we all need to stop not breathing a word about similar wrongs. By imitating the Holy Spirit and instead practicing peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness, we can start breathing the flavor and bouquet of love and tolerance into a society so desperately thirsting for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Connected in a Disconnected Time May 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:18 am

If you know me at all, you know I’m a big fan of author/spiritual mamma/inspirator Susie Davis. I go to her often and today I went to her as I had a 40 minute drive to take my dog to the vet. I scanned through her podcasts for one I hadn’t listened to and found what seemed like the perfect one for these times: “When You Feel Disconnected.” Don’t we all right now? I was all in and pressed play.

 

In the podcast, Susie interviewed fellow author/spiritual mamma/inspirator Kate Merrick and she had me at hello. Early into the podcast she noted that 41 percent of Americans say they don’t have one friend and yet…we are the most “connected” we’ve ever been. And although the podcast was recorded before the current COVID pandemic, both those statements are so very relevant today.

 

Think about it: how many of us have been sheltered at home either alone or among family and feeling like we don’t have a friend in the world while at the same time how many of us are connected to tons of social media “friends?”

 

I’d bet the house that during the past few months we have collectively been on social media or some sort of technology maybe more than ever before. I remember reading a post saying how horrific things would really be if we “ran out of” Wi-Fi. Sad but true, right? But, we’ve been bored in the house and in the house bored so we log-on and “like.” All things Netflix, Tiktok, Instagram and beyond have been our sources of entertainment and distraction. We’ve also needed the internet for work, school, and even exercise so sites like Zoom have boomed. Even my book club has Zoomed and I’ve been getting my weekly doses of much-need yoga on Zoom. Recently before doing our downward dogs and warrior twos, we chatted briefly that yes, we are all sadly addicted to our phones and technology but right now they are the only ways we stay in touch with others. Right now. But how about before Corona and after Corona?

 

 

Our 27-year-old daughter was back home with us working from home for two months before leaving this week and I remember her at one point saying she had a headache. We put our heads together and decided it was because she was looking at either her phone or her laptop pretty much nonstop. After putting a slight stop to that, the headaches disappeared. Technology rocks, but it also hurts.

 

Merrick is the first to get off the social media bandwagon for a number of reasons. She hates that scanning through IG accounts just isn’t healthy for her mindset in that it often left her feeling inadequate, ugly, and out-of-shape. Instead, she chooses to love what God has given her and not pine after what God has given others. Brilliant, right? But she says, we’ve become convinced that social media is the only way to connect with someone because it’s currently the most common way. As a culture, we buy what is being sold and today social media is what’s selling.

 

 

These are unique times however and they call for unique measures. Yes, it’s easy to say shy away from social media when things are “normal,” but when stuck inside for days on end it’s tough to not log on and look. If you must, Merrick suggests shunning comparison and unfollow any accounts that make you feel lame. If you feel the need to follow anyone, follow those accounts that inspire you or make you smile. Merrick also recommends “practicing presence” by living in your present moment and life situation. Again, don’t compare and instead listen to her wise words of, “I’ll love what I’m doing a lot more if I’m not aware of what everyone else is doing.” Or where they’re going to. Or what they’re buying. Or who they’re with. Live in your space and time not Facebook’s.

 

I gotta admit, I do enjoy a little Facebook and Instagram but I try my hardest not to compare, contrast, or compete and if your feed is only photos of you, I’m out. I agree with Merrick in that it can all sometimes make me feel dry and thirsty and wanting. Are we really connecting when we are so anonymous and so arbitrary?

 

We arbitrarily post the pretty in our lives and let others into the portions of our lives that we choose. They comment and we comment but there is no commitment of actual friendship required. Merrick says social media is like a cheap date: lots of affirmation with not a lot of work. Bingo.

 

Still, in isolated times like the present, socializing on social media is all we have. But, don’t let these faux communities let you forget your real communities: the groups of your people, or as the doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy” so famously refer to each other: “my person.” These are the persons who bring you casseroles when you’re sick, send cards and flowers for deaths and birthdays, and are your ride or dies whether laughing or crying. These are the connections we should all crave and seek once lockdown has died down.

 

 

The first place to start is to maybe check your distractions; especially those I mentioned above as being COVID sanity savers. Do you truly enjoy scrolling through post after post or is doing so simply a distraction. Own that distraction before it owns you and keep in mind that even Jesus had to get away to pray. Jesus was also present to His disciples…a group that BTW was extremely diverse…and spent time with them. As Merrick says, if we are enormously distracted we cannot hear God’s voice. Listen up and slow down.

 

I somewhat reluctantly realized this just today and owning it hurts my heart. Since our daughter headed back to her home, I’ve found that I’m back to my morning prayer and meditation time. I get away and I pray and read. For some reason, I didn’t do it daily the two months she was here. I was, you got it, distracted and shame on me. A daughter should witness her mom spending every morning in prayer and this mamma failed.

 

 

I bet you’ve discovered a sliver of who “your people” are during our current national emergency. I know I have. I’ve learned who has reached out, went out of their way to celebrate me on my birthday, asked if I needed any groceries, and have called or texted again and again. They are who I’ve felt connected to. Truly connected.

 

In the end, be picky about who and what you spend your time on. Whether we like it or not, all of our days are numbered so why not fill them with some real connections? I’m ready.

 

 

 

Learning As We Go May 13, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:23 pm

 

I needed a dose of happiness today so I went to the source: Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and goal-tender of all things deep and happy. Her “Happier” podcast is one of my favorites and the one focusing on “What have you learned about yourself or others recently?” grabbed my attention. During it, she discussed both the practical and profound things we are learning as we meander our way through social-distancing, working at home, and self-isolating.

 

 

Two things I’ve learned that jumped right out at me are that I touch my face a lot and that social distancing isn’t that hard or distressing for me. I miss my coworkers and my job but other than that, there’s really not a whole lot I miss about going out. If I miss any “going out,” it’s traveling, meeting friends for coffee or dinner, my yoga class, and the occasional get dressed up and go out nights. The simple things with people I’m most comfortable and happy with. I also miss going casually to the grocery store and not having to worry about anything or wearing a mask and stress-free wandering through Target, a bookstore, gift stores, and boutiques. Just wandering. Not running in to buy essentials or stopping by just to support a small business, but casually browsing. On my time. At my pace.

 

I like the feeling of being “alone in a crowd” and haven’t really felt cut off from a lot of things. I like the slow life, can easily get lost in a peaceful and safe social place, and as I’ve written a million times before, I’m never bored in my house. Still, it all feels a little different when we are told to do something rather than when we choose to do something, right?  I’ve learned this bothers me.

 

 

I’ve never been one to suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), but I do have a real case of FOGO, Fear of Going Out. I’m so torn. I know we need to go out and get this economy rolling again but I also know that waitress could be asymptomatic and who knows who’s touched that shirt or candle. But, I’ve learned that that may be part of the plan: making people fearful, which leads to control.

 

 

I’ve also learned the following:

I have a sweet tooth! I’ve always been a more salty/savory girl, but boy have I developed or discovered the sweeter things in life. And my waist is showing it!

 

I’m a neat freak and like everything in its place and tidied up, but I’m not an “everything scrubbed clean” house mom. Even in this day and age, which somewhat surprises me.

 

We are the church. Church buildings have been shut but I think we can all agree that the people have proven we are the churches, not the buildings.

 

“Gray’s Anatomy” is amazing TV! I’ve never watched it but our daughter recently started doing so with her roomies and since she’s been here we’ve been “going to the hospital” every night and I am sold on the staff and stories of Seattle Grace Hospital. Can McDreamy be any more dreamy?!

 

Reading is not automatic for me just because I’m home. Yes, I’m always in the middle of a book but for some reason I haven’t read a whole lot and it shocks me. Maybe it’s all the distractions; maybe it’s just me.

 

I’m starting to like golf more than I thought I did. Granted, I’ve had plenty of time to do so but I think what’s really made the difference is who I’ve played with, feeling more comfortable, and letting go of expectations.

 

New words and phrases that will stick with us forever. I can honestly say that as recent as February I had never uttered the words “social distancing,” “flatten the curve,” “essential workers,” and “spiritual communion” and I’m guessing you hadn’t either. I’d also never heard of “drive by parties.”

 

New technology including Zoom and Band, which I had to quickly master and use for some virtual classroom teaching and lesson planning. Granted, I’m no software engineer as a result, but it has been fun learning new things.

 

I don’t love Zoom and Houseparty “happy hours” and I’m not sure why. For some reason they’re a little stressful for me. Maybe I need to add more “happy” to my happy hours!

 

I don’t always like what everyone else does, and that’s okay. I hated “Ozark” and I don’t really enjoy grocery delivery. The last one surprises me because I generally hate going to the grocery store. Again, maybe it’s the ole “you have to” not “you choose to” reason. Maybe it’s cuz I can tend to be a slight control freak.

 

Saying “I don’t know” is actually very freeing and stress-relieving thanks to writer mentor and friend Carolyn Scarborough who recently wrote about the concept of being okay with not knowing what tomorrow holds or having all the answers. Try it. It works.

 

TikTok is addictive and some of the songs are very catchy. No, I haven’t made any videos but I love the steps challenge, the Drake dance, and the shuffle.

 

How to make a face mask out of a sock!

 

 

We as a country really need to focus on manufacturing more of the products we use right here in the U.S.A. and that we as consumers need to demand this from those we buy from. It’s one thing to have Tilapia produced in China but another thing to outsource our antibiotics and medicines there. If we’ve learned anything as a society through all of this, let it be this.

 

 

Through a collective eye, we’ve all learned that nurses, doctors, truck drivers, delivery companies, pharmacists, farmers, grocery store workers, mail carriers, first responders, utility workers, and the internet are waaaaay more essential than movie stars, singers, or athletes. (But please let football start in the fall!)

 

Things I’ve learned about others:

There are some very creative and clever people out there (with the obvious time on their hands!) and I want to thank them for all the memes floating on social media.

 

Working from home now for two months, our daughter has proved she is extremely disciplined! Even though she could sleep in and laze around all day, she is instead up at 6:30 every morning exercising and then is on the phone and laptop during the day working. I’ve also learned that she is a much bigger extrovert than I ever knew.

 

In our extended time together I’ve also learned a lot about her personally; her joys and her struggles, her goals and her worries. It’s been rewarding to hear some of them and hard to hear others. I’m grateful however, to know that she opens up to me about both. I’ve learned to just listen.

 

She has also taught me that I rarely eat three meals a day as three healthy and hearty meals…often bowls… are part of her daily dose of nutrition and meal planning. Oh yes, “meal planning” and “food prep.” Two more new things I’ve learned all about!

 

A new pizza sauce recipe from her that is amazing: blend together butternut squash, almond milk, and parmesan cheese and top your cauliflower pizza crust with it and then any toppings you choose. Trust me: amazing!

 

My husband can indeed play golf every day and not get tired of it. I’ve also learned to be as grateful for a golf course as I’ve ever been. He literally only needs a golf course and a TV to be happy.

 

My husband has a secret crush on Laura Ingraham and Deborah Birx and is especially fond of the latter’s daily scarf selections. Truth be told he also loves Mike Lindell, his My Pillow commercials, and their jingle.

 

Something sad that I’ve learned is that there is still so much hate and bitterness out there and that so many remain hate-filled, partisan, and intolerant, even as they preach tolerance. You would think a national crises would lead to the putting aside of their angry hearts and unite us, but I’ve learned that is not the case. Too bad. For them. News flash haters: pandemics aren’t political.

 

 

So what have you learned during all of this? What, as Rubin asked, do you want to be accountable for? Have you found a new appreciation for someone or something? Have you discovered that maybe someone or something you thought were “essential” in your life maybe aren’t? Have you learned something new or taken up a new hobby? Have you let go or given up?

 

Some of us have had time to think about all of this, others have been swamped with stay-at-home work and homeschooling, have been home alone all these weeks and are lonely, and many others have been laid off and struggling to make ends meet. Through it all, have you discovered your authentic self or are you still learning and searching for meaning and direction? For me, it’s a little of both.

 

Whatever we’ve all learned, one thing is for sure: future generations will be learning about this COVID crisis in history classes for years to come. We can proudly say we’ve lived through history and hopefully learned from it.

 

 

 

 

A Sweet Pandemic Invention May 5, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:50 pm

 

Has anyone invented anything like calculus all this time you’ve been bored and sheltering at home? Yeah right, right?!

 

And then there’s la-la land Gwenyth Paltrow who said this:

 

 

As much as I love to write, would love to learn a new language, and love the idea of making productive use out of being home all day every day, it just ain’t happening. At least not for me.

 

But that’s exactly what happened to Eleanor Abbott many years ago and under very similar circumstances that we all find ourselves in today. Not only did she create something new, she created the perfect something at the perfect time. And while in a hospital. During a quarantine. And it’s not medicine. Per se.

 

 

Back in the 1940s our nation suffered under a Corona virus similar plague: polio. The first major polio epidemic occurred in 1916 and reached its peak in 1952. During it, children were confined indoors and often times in a hospital. They were highly restricted and forced to spend days inside an “iron lung,” which were the cumbersome and total body entrapping ventilators of the time. Patients were offered only brief breaks to sit up and maybe play a game in their beds, making for a very scary and depressing pediatric ward.

 

A viral disease that affects the nervous system and causes paralysis Polio, much like COVID-19, spreads through direct contact with people carrying the infection.  Dr. Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1955 and the U.S. has been polio-free since 1979. There is no cure for polio and in the United States, children are recommended to receive a polio vaccine at two and four months old, and then twice more before entering elementary school.

 

 

In 1949 and in the midst of the crisis, young San Diego teacher Abbott, who herself was a polio ward patient, saw a need for something to give the immobilized kids a distraction and way to escape their bleak realities. What better way or place than a land made entirely of candy? Enter Candy Land, the now beloved game that’s been entertaining kids ever since.

 

I’m guessing all of you reading this have played Candy Land and love it as much as I do. I remember playing it when our daughter was little and just the sight of it brings me a sweet level of joy and nostalgia. Using locations called Candy Cane Forest, Gumdrop Mountain, and Peppermint Sea along with characters like Queen Frostline, Princess Lolly, and Gramma Nutt, what’s not to love?

 

 

Attractive to kids of all ages, the simple board game is won by reaching the Candy Castle by drawing color-coded cards and moving your marker. It requires no reading or counting skills and players are never asked to make any complicated decisions or choices.

 

Because of its simplicity, low stress level, no need for physical movement, and simple competition, it was the perfect way for quarantined kids to pass the time and have some fun. It was also inclusive of all skill levels and ages and if you look on an original Candy Land board, you’ll notice artwork of a little boy in a leg brace. Today, kids love the fact that they can play it by themselves, which given our current home-bound situation, is music to parent’s ears as we all strive to carve out alone time while also juggling many household chores and demands.

 

 

Bought by Milton Bradley as a temporary fill in for what was their main product line at the time, school supplies, Candy Land quickly became the company’s best-selling game and basically put MB on the map. In 1984 Hasbro bought Milton Bradley and today nearly 1 million Candy Land board games are sold each year. The Toy Industry Association named Candy Land the most popular U.S. toy for the 1940s and in 2005 it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY.

 

I’m guessing Abbott had no idea she was designing a standard bearer that would stand the test of time, as bored kids are still being entertained by a board game. Brilliant! Still, how wonderful that a teacher who was sick herself, created a “cure” that helped sick children feel less sad and lonely and gave them a sense of freedom and fun. How wonderful too that Abbott reportedly donated the majority of her earnings to the purchase of school supplies and other equipment for schools and kids in need.

 

All this makes me wonder what Eleanor Abbott would think of today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully most kids are at home and not in hospitals but they might be getting just a bit bored and antsy after all these weeks without their friends and classmates. I’m sure you’ve pulled out the puzzles and card games already, but have you played Candy Land with them? Why not give it a roll and a short history lesson at the same time? Maybe, just maybe similar innovations and blessings will come out of today’s crisis that will benefit generations to come. You never know if you have another Candy Land on your hands!

 

 

 

 

Home Sweet Smelling Home April 27, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:29 pm

Home sweet home. That’s where we’ve all spent the past few weeks, right? If you’re like me, you’ve cased your home top to bottom, have done a few home improvement projects, conjured up a million ideas and dreams, and maybe even wondered how you can make your house feel a little different this week. Or next. Or the next.

 

One way I love to “accessorize” and cozy-up my home is with candles and diffusers. (How cute is the above Illume candle I recently ordered?) To me, they are both treats and necessities. They make a home smell good and they either eliminate or mask scents you’d rather not house. We all have our favorites.

 

Currently, my favorite scent provider is my Young Living diffuser. I’m a big proponent of Young Living essential oils and for the past month or so, my YL diffuser has been running non-stop, filled with both Young Living Thieves and Purification oils, both of which are cleansing and purifying. I normally have the diffuser next to my bed and filled with either Lavender or Peace and Calming, but desperate times call for desperate measures so into the main living area it went.

 

 

I’m a big candle girl though, so I also always have a candle…or one or two or three…burning somewhere in my home. If buying me one, safe bets are anything vanilla, bergamot, red currant, lemon, or verbena. That being said, these are my standard go to’s:

 

Bath and Body Works’ White Barn “Vanilla Birch,” “Bergamot Mint,” “Warm Vanilla Sugar,” and Aromatherapy “Love”

Lollia “In Love”

Diptyque “Baies”

Bridgewater “Afternoon Retreat,” “Solitude,” and “Open Road”

Tokyo Milk “Let Them Eat Cake”

Archipelago “Luna”

Votivo “Red Currant” and “Pink Mimosa”

Trapp “Orange Vanilla”

Volcano “Capri Blue”

 

The latter, Capri Blue, is my daughter’s favorite and the favorite of many. Another quite popular brand is Nest, but perhaps the most iconic is Diptyque’s Baies. It’s also one of the most expensive.

 

 

The original Diptyque boutique opened in Paris in 1961 but a popular line of candles was not its owners’ intent. The small shop’s founders consisted of a fabric designer, theater set designer, and painter and their goal was to own a fun store that sold fun things “bazaar style” found and inspired by their many fun travels. Two years after opening, three hand-crafted candles were created but one of them, the rose and black current scented Baies, later earned legendary status. A status it still holds today.

 

 

In 1983, the late great and legendary designer and Chanel Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld chose Baies to burn in every store of the fashion giant and during its runway shows. The fashion world was abuzz and before you could say “burn out,” homes from Paris to Plano to Portland were ablaze with Baies. Known as much for their hard to read labels, Diptyque candles were originally only available in Paris but today you can today purchase them in boutiques from coast-to-coast and online. But beware, a six ounce candle will put you back around $70.

 

Yes, they are pricey but I have found that inexpensive and mass-produced candles often don’t fill a room with scent. It’s a classic case of “you get what you pay for,” so since I’m almost always burning a candle at home (and at both ends!), I opt more for medium-priced ones rather than either very expensive or very affordable.

 

The OCD in me also means I will only buy candles that match my home décor, meaning I will never have a blue or orange candle, as I don’t have those colors anywhere in our house. Then there’s the paraffin vs. soy vs. beeswax issue.

 

 

Paraffin vs. Soy vs. Beeswax

“Regular” candles are normally paraffin candles, which contain petroleum oil. Soy candles are natural in that they’re made from vegetable oil, or soybeans to be exact, and beeswax candles are made from a renewable all natural wax produced by honey bees. Let’s look at each.

 

Unlike the aforementioned beeswax, paraffin wax is non-renewable. It is a created byproduct of petroleum, coal, or oil shale. Eeeewww, right? But look at your candles right now. Many could very well be primarily paraffin. If so, know that they are not hypo-allergenic so if anyone in your home has allergies, asthma, or other chemical sensitivies, paraffin candles are probably not what you want.

 

Soy candles are natural and they don’t increase the CO2 level in your home. They also burn longer than paraffin candles and don’t produce any icky black soot. So, not only do they clean up easier, they are healthier for humans, pets, and the environment as a whole.

 

So are beeswax candles, which if of the 100 percent kind, are free of toxic chemicals. Because beeswax is denser than even soy wax, these candles burn longer than their soy counterparts and most other candles as a whole. But know that they are also way more expensive. Their light is also a bit different due to their higher melting point. Beeswax flames tend to be brighter and warmer than other candles. Lastly, beeswax is hypo-allergenic.

 

 

Something else you might want to consider and decide is what type of candle you’re looking for. Candles come in a wide variety of styles, including taper, pillar, votive, tealight, floating, and container jar. Tapers are, to me, old school formal and conjure up images of a formal dining table in perhaps Williamsburg, Virginia or Savannah, Georgia. I love them, especially when sitting atop crystal or brass with bobeches. Pillars are very common and can be used in a range of vessels. Battery-operated ones are extremely popular for outdoor use and for smoke-free indoor mood lighting. Both votives and tealights are great accents and small room choices, while jar and other container options are the kind you can find just about anywhere and in a variety of scents and motifs.

 

 

A Scent for Every Room

Whatever candle you choose, you know that lighting it can bring the simplest kind of joy whether it be in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, or family room. What scents you light in each however, some would suggest should vary.

 

According to luxury real estate brand Sotheby’s, choosing which fragrance for which room should depend on the function of that room. In the kitchen, you should avoid florals as they can interfere with food smell and instead opt for anything in the citrus family, which complement what’s cooking while neutralizing stubborn odors. In a family or living area, energizing fig or fruity choices literally lend an “air” of energizing and uplifting aromas and are especially weighty when entertaining.

 

Now for the bedroom and bathroom. You might want clean smelling scents like fresh linen, ocean, and even cucumber in the bathroom but in the bedroom think relax. You’ll get the most benefit out of calming and soothing whiffs near your bed, such as lavender and vanilla, which will help you unwind and sleep more soundly.

 

Another candle tip is how to ensure they last as long as possible. I really like three-wick candles because I feel they burn more evenly but as for all those one-wick candles out there, be sure to let the entire surface of one melt and soften before blowing it out. This will prevent the dreaded “tunnel” candle problem and overall uneven burning.

 

But what if you don’t like candles but still want home fragrance? There are several options to choose from.

 

 

Diffuse Don’t Refuse

If you for any reason refuse to burn candles but still want home fragrance: diffuse! You know these bottles filled with scented liquid and sprouting reeds out the top? They’re everywhere and they’re great! I have several and feel like one in my entry way provides a whiff of good stuff anytime someone enters my home. As the owner of three dogs, this is imperative!  My current favorite is Inis, which I recently discovered in Santa Fe. I also like Pottery Barn’s “Ocean,” Pier 1’s “Cuban Vanilla,” and Chesapeake Bay’s “White Citron,” which I can no longer find! Ugh! You can also count on any Jo Malone diffuser to please the senses, but at more than $100 a pop, they aren’t pleasing to the pocketbook…at least not to mine.

 

 

Another home fragrance option is wax. Say what you want but I actually really like a few of Scentsy’s melting bars. I’m obsessed with their Vanilla Suede (which is currently not being made…grrrrrrr!), as well as their Lemon Verbena, Vanilla Bean Buttercream, and Butter Pecan bars. They are affordable, simple to use, add a bit of ambiance with their lighted and decorative warmers and to me, there’s something very soothing about melting wax.

 

And if all of this isn’t enough, there’s a brand new trend out there: smart home automatic diffusing fragrance systems. Think high-end retail store, hotel lobby, or the likes and the fabulous scent that envelopes you as you enter. Now you can have that in your home thanks to apps and other Bluetooth timed spritzers. Through the touch of an app or other remote controlled systems that can be paired with your Alexa or Google Assistant, you can spray your home on schedule and even by specific scent for specific time of the day (i.e.: energizing florals during the day and calming herbals at night). Uh-mazing, right?

 

It all comes down to scent and smelling good. As I previously blogged, scent has a way of changing a mood, setting a tone, and sparking a memory. Here’s a link if you’re interested:  https://carlawordsmithblog.com/2015/01/15/its-all-about-that-smell/

 

I hope while you’re home-bound and social distancing you are surrounded by positivity, family or loved ones, and heavenly scents.