Beyond Words

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

Unmasked and Unafraid October 19, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:16 pm

Halloween is quickly approaching and as much as I’m thrilled that, after a year of being masked up, kids can once again Trick-or-Treat this year and hopefully the only masks they’ll be wearing are those that go with their costumes. Still, let it be known I am not a Halloween fan. I don’t like anything ghoulish or scary and I really don’t like dressing up in a costume. In fact, almost any invite that requires a costume is almost certainly a “no” for me. Yes, I’ll do it for the most special of cases, but I will never choose to do it on my own or suggest it be done.

 

As a kid, this wasn’t necessarily the case as I have very fond memories of my simple either Tweedy Bird or Caspar the Friendly Ghost costumes that consisted merely of a flimsy yellow or white cape-like costume and a plastic face that was more Jason from “Friday the 13th” than anything friendly. Maybe the key word here is simple. The more elaborate the costume requirement, the less I’m prone to put it on.

 

If you don’t believe me on any of this, ask our daughter. She swears she doesn’t like Halloween much either and blames me. I was never that mom who went all out for her child’s Halloween costume but, I am also proud to say that one of her costumes was award winning. We still laugh about it today.

 

Our church was hosting a pre-Halloween fest for parish kids and being the dog lovers that we are, we (okay I) chose what was really a dog costume for my sweet daughter. It was a giant Milk-Bone dog biscuit that a real dog would wear horizontally on their long body (think maybe Lab or Golden Retriever) but our girl wore it vertically. I added some home-made ears out of one of her hairbands, a fake nose, a (gasp!) leash around her neck, and voila! The cutest costume ever was born. And get this; her unpretentious little costume won the costume contest that night! Yep, she beat out the most elaborate get-ups and came home top dog and dog-gone proud. You could say it was probably one of my proudest Halloween moments.

 

I’m also pretty proud of costumes my husband and another couple and I wore one year. She and I hand hand-painted a giant “Y,” “M,” “C,” and “A” on four separate white t-shirts and then we each donned either a cowboy hat, army helmet, hard hat, or police officer cap and became The Village People. We thought we were so clever (and what an easy costume!) but didn’t realize till later that many of the photos we took were of “ACMY” rather than “YMCA.” Oh well, give us points for creativity.

 

Yet another easy-peasy costume I put together for my hubby and I was “The Graduate.” He had recently attended an honorary university event and was sent an elaborate graduation gown and motar board to wear to it, which later made the perfect Halloween party costume with me on his side wearing an animal print pillbox hat, black pumps, and a cocktail dress. Yep, I was Mrs. Robinson! Here’s to you!

 

Finally, a dear friend and I once dressed as the then popular band The Black Eyed Peas by simply donning a painted on black eye and white t-shirts with a big “P” on them. Again, I’m all for simple.

 

So Carla, as you’re lying there on the couch show me on this puppet what you don’t like about costumes. This might be what a therapist would ask me in addressing my aversion to costumes. First and foremost I don’t like the hassle. Put me in scrubs and I’m a doctor or put me in a white jacket and white hat and I’m a chef. But, it ends there. I’m okay with conceptualizing something clever or elaborate but my creative juices dry up when it comes time to shop for all the necessary pieces.

 

 

I also don’t like attention and I don’t like pretending. I don’t like to pretend I’m someone I’m not and I certainly don’t like pretending I’m a sexy whatever at my age and cannot stand when women of a certain age put on the fishnets, bunny outfits, or hot cop with handcuffs costumes. Not a good look ladies; not a good look.

 

So there you have it…my take on what many of you might consider one of your favorite holidays. You have fun buying your costumes and I love you for it. I’ll enjoy looking at all your photos but until then I’ll be right here unmasked and unafraid.

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things October 3, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:33 pm

 

When I fly, I always like to pack a few snacks in my carry on. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, some kind of crunchy snack, and something sweet are my travel to go choices. This past week I included DOVE Promises, those little square pieces of chocolate that pack a punch. Much like Hershey’s Kisses, one or two Promises satisfy and gratify.  Each one also comes with a sweet quote inside their wrapper. The one I opened said “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” Snapple drinks do something similar under each cap, and that company brilliantly ties in the quote with their website.

 

You could say both of these are examples of how the little things in life can bring big chunks of joy. Bigger is not always better. Travelling along the eastern seaboard last week from Maryland to New Jersey I witnessed this geographically first hand. I found it fascinating that in 2.5 hours we drove through four states. In Texas, that wouldn’t get you from Austin to Dallas or Dallas to Houston. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas.

 

But back to the small things. There are so many small wonders in the world that we often don’t pay attention to. I’m thinking we should and what better time to start then now?

 

Take the Qtip. What would we do without them, right? This engineering feat was created in the 1920s for baby care and today more than 30 billion are sold each year. Each diameter of the cotton ends is the same for every single swab but they are not meant to be ear cleaners, even though 99 percent of us probably use them for just that. It’s worth noting that on every Qtip package is a warning against doing so. What else do we use these small wonders for? Applying make-up, stirring liquids, as fire starters with matches, and a host of other personal and ingenious uses.

 

Then there’s the Chinese take-out box. The iconic white boxes seem pretty unassuming to look at, but they are actually amazing little pieces of design. They’re cut from one piece of paper and folded, leaving no seams where liquids can’t seep out of. And, if you pop the wire handle off, they turn into a plate. Who knew, right?!  What we do know is that this box style is now used for not only food, but for boxing gifts, party favors, and a whole lot more.

 

The boxes are somewhat surprisingly an American creation, patented in 1894 by Chicago inventor Frederick Weeks Wilcox. An, funny that the little works of origami often contain American food, as Chinese-American cuisine is very different from the food you find in China. So in essence, you have American food in an American box. USA! USA!

 

 

On my trip I also realized I’m also a big fan of that little thing called a travel neck pillow. Yes, I know they are a bit cumbersome to carry, but boy am I always so grateful I have one once onboard. Thank you to whoever invented them! And thank you to whoever invented the apple corer and slicer that gives you eight perfect slices of an apple. Mine is shaped like an apple and I couldn’t love it more.

 

And lastly, two items we all use and love but maybe don’t give enough credit to for making our lives just a little bit better: Post It Notes and beverage collars, those cardboard cup wraps that are used everywhere coffee is sold.

 

I write this during the week that the Feast of St. Therese was celebrated. Therese, for those who don’t know, was known for her “little way.” St. Therese of Lisieux was a French Carmelite nun who died at the age of 24 in 1897 but her little life changed people in big ways and still does to this day. Therese believed that he actions were ways to let God’s love work through her towards others, regardless of how big or small they were. This philosophy is known as the Little Way and is about doing the smallest actions with big love. Therese lived a simple, hidden life of holiness and didn’t chase lofty achievements or merits. She even wrote about how much care she put into folding napkins at the dinner table.

 

St. Therese is one of my favorite saints and if I can employ her “little way” in even the littlest ways I’d be big-time happy.

 

In the end, let’s all remember that it really is the little things that matter. The little words and notes of praise or thanks. The little random acts of kindness. The little meals and little walks. The little quotes inside a little piece of chocolate. These are the things that make life sweet. What little things and small wonders come to mind for you?

 

Smells Like Fall September 30, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:42 pm

 

Don’t laugh; it could happen. Probably actually is. That’s the state we are in: masked up and everything pumpkin spice. I realized this yesterday as I strolled through the grocery store (unmasked BTW) and saw just a few masks but a ton of pumpkin spice everything. Yes, there was the requisite supply of the “Three Cs of Pumpkin Spice:” coffee, creamers, and candles, but who knew people have a craving for pumpkin spice butter, hummus, cereal, crackers, chips, and even oatmeal, which I, guilty as charged, recently purchased at Trader Joe’s. It’s crazy out there people!

 

Blame it on Starbucks.

 

 

The coffee chain claims credit for any and all pumpkin spice phenomenon, which they introduced to the the masses back in 2003. Today, Starbucks sells 20 million pumpkin spice lattes each year and it is their top-selling seasonal beverage of all time. Shocker. Funny thing is, the drink contains no pumpkin but instead is merely topped with pumpkin spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger.

 

 

Courtesy: Paris in Four Months

I’m a coffee lover and always say I like a little coffee with my creamer, but a pumpkin spice latte lover I’m not. I’ll drink one now and then during this time of year, but you won’t find me in line for one or buying the coffee to use at home. But, I do love fall and I enjoy pumpkin scented candles and pumpkin bread. Don’t even get me started on pumpkin pie though, which is my absolute favorite.

 

So what is it about all things pumpkin and particularly pumpkin spice? Turns out it’s all about not our mouths and taste buds, but our noses and sense of smell.

 

 

According to Johns Hopkins University, it’s not the taste of the favorite fall flavor, but instead the smell of it and the associations it bubbles up. Apparently of all the senses, smell is uniquely tied to memory. In fact, the part of the brain that processes odors sits right next to the part that processes memories. Close your eyes and think about this for a minute. Think about fresh baked bread or freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Does your mind go to how they taste or how they smell and a memory associated with them?

 

 

This year’s pumpkin spice barrage started in August, weeks before fall actually began, and we can count on it to hit us annually and circle back next year. Coincidentally, Johns Hopkins found that the more you’re exposed to something, the more it ingrains itself in your preferences so by simply experiencing pumpkin spice everything every year, the more familiar and reassuring that scent becomes. Even though the lattes and popcorn haven’t been around forever, they now bring with them a certain nostalgic comfort and pleasant anticipation. Being that our sense of smell inspires memories, light those candles and baked that pumpkin bread!

 

 

But back to fall. I may not love pumpkin spice lattes but I love fall. I love everything about it: the weather, the clothing, football, and Thanksgiving. I’m not a Halloween fan though, so my fall décor is all things pumpkins and harvest. No scary or ghoulish things at Carla’s home.  But, there will be lots of pumpkins; lots of pumpkins. Maybe this year I’ll add some pumpkin flavored coffee creamer and noodles just to spice things up. My sense of smell and pumpkin spice manufacturers everywhere will be ever so grateful.

 

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 susiedavis.org. 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.”

 

 

Markus-Spiske

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

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

Ticonderoga

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.

 

 

Blackwing

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

Evelyn_Henson

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 paintingpandas.org.

 

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.

 

 

MacKenzie-Childs

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 realsimple.com, 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.

 

MOST POPULAR FLAVORS

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.

 

 

PICTURE PERFECT

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!”

 

 

STRIKE A POSE

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

 

tucker.nyc Sarah Shirtdress

 

Old Navy Embroidered Midi Swing Dress