Beyond Words

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

Be Thankful November 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:49 pm

How To Observe Thanksgiving

Count your blessings insead of your crosses

Count your gains instead of your losses

Count your joys instead of your woes

Count your friends instead of your foes

Count your smiles instead of your tears

Count your courage instead of your fears

Count your full years instead of your lean

Count the kindness instead of the mean

Count your health instead of your wealth

Count on God instead of yourself.

Here’s hoping all of you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


For My Biskit November 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:50 pm

 “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”  Josh Billings


This is not the blog I intended to write today.  I was hoping to write something related to Thanksgiving but sometimes God changes your plans.  I am painfully dealing with that fact now.   This is very hard for me to compose, yet at the same time, cathartic.  Somehow I couldn’t come up with a clever title for it though.  They all seemed so trite.  I went with my heart.


I’ve always believed in the saying above and sadly, our house right now is not a home.  As many of you know, Smitty and I had to put our precious Biskit to sleep yesterday.  I usually don’t like using the phrase “to sleep” and normally say “put down” instead, but for Biskit “to sleep” is where she is now.  Somewhat thankfully.


Biskit had a tumor in her nose that was discovered over the summer.  She had seemed somewhat normal for a 13-year-old dog, but the past few days the tumor spread and she wasn’t able to breathe normally.  She couldn’t breath so she couldn’t relax so she couldn’t sleep.  She was in great distress so I’m thankful she is now peacefully sleeping.  I have never had to put a dog down…they’ve always died of natural causes.  It was excruciatingly hard.  I am thankful for Dr. Simmons and the staff at Austin’s Burnet Road Animal Hospital.  This little and simple veterinarian office has been there for us for 26 years and were there for us again yesterday.  They are, hands down, the best vets in Austin.  We were there as they put her to sleep.  I knew it would be difficult but knew I had to be there for her.  It happened so very fast and at one point she looked at me with eyes that said “thank you mom; I’ll be much better now.”  I will never forget the nurse hugging me as I sobbed.  We walked out without our precious four-legged friend but with a pewter ornament with a paw print that says “Forever In Our Hearts” and a clay impression of her little paw print they made for us.  So thoughtful.  So kind.



Now Biskit is in heaven and St. Francis is taking good care of her.  I’m confident he was waiting for her with open arms and a bevy of other animals to greet her and show her the joys of breathing again and letting her chase all the shadows heaven has to offer.  She’s also with all the other dogs that have gone before her and my sister Patti is certain her daughter Maria needed a dog in heaven and is taking good care of my Biskit.  I love that thought.


In trying to keep with the spirit of Thanksgiving I am thankful for nearly 14 years of joy Biskit brought to my life.  From a little Jack Russell puppy that was no bigger than a mouse to a mature loving dog, she was the best dog I’ve ever owned. Kristen named her after a series of books she liked in the first grade.  Being that she was in first grade, life was all about phonics; hence “Biscuit” became “Biskit.”  The name fit from day one.  Now I don’t know what I’ll do without her and her silly little tendencies.   Her chasing shadows, reflections, and sprinklers.  Her determination to get every squirrel that dared enter her backyard.  Her stinky little bed.  Her regal “King’s Thumb Print” on the top of her soft little head.  Her sweet little ears.  Her snuggling right up against me on the “big bed” and even her growls if you made even the slightest move as she slept.  As my friend Judy said, “Biskit had so much personality.”  Yes she did.  She was my “Libbles” and loved going for a libble ride and a libble walk.  She loved her treats too.  What do I do with the canister labeled “Biskit’s Biscuits” in my kitchen?  Her bowls?  Her bed?  She also loved belly rubs and got one last rub down as she lay sleeping at the vet.  I already miss her.



I’ve had dogs my entire life and I don’t remember crying as hard as I have the past 24 hours.  Literally non-stop.  Biskit was more than a dog to me.  She was a member of our family.  We got her when Kristen was in first grade and she was there for me when Kristen went away to college.  My friend Tracey told me it’s harder to lose pets as we get older and I couldn’t agree more.  Maybe it’s our own mortality that starts to hit us.  Maybe we just are now old enough to understand what really matters in life.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”  Roger Caras


To those of you who aren’t dog people and are thinking “WTH, she was just a dog;” the best way I can describe our obsession with Man’s Best Friend is by paraphrasing the famous Texas A&M Aggie saying that goes something like this:  “From the outside you don’t understand it.  From the inside you can’t explain it.”  I can’t explain the hole in my heart and the emptiness in our house.  I, of course, think of people who have lost family members but it still hurts.  My sister Coral has lost both and says the only thing that will heal my hurt is time.  I hadn’t talked to Coral in months.  We used to be the best of friends but things happened that even the two of us don’t understand and now we rarely communicate at all…not even on Facebook.  Biskit’s passing got her to pick up the phone and call me.  We cried and promised to do things differently now.  When God closes a window, he opens a door.


So now Biskit is free of tumors and one blissful dog.  I loved the poem my friend Tammy sent me called “The Rainbow Bridge.”  It made me cry and it made me smile.  My friend Leslie loves the quote, “I don’t know where people go when they die, but I want to go where the dogs go.”  I’m pretty sure they go to the same place and I can’t wait to see them all.  Run, Biskit Tiny Smith, run.  The gate is open and you are free.



Now please forgive and allow me to indulge in some of my favorite photos of Biskit.


Part of our family

Favorite ever

Merry Christmas!

Driving to Santa Fe to see Ama. Such a great little traveler.

Hated this sweater!

Peek-a-boo I miss you!

Loved her libble bed

First snow!

Stretching out

All curled up on the “big bed”

Hanging in there yesterday. We love you Biskit.




















Sunday Scripture November 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:29 pm

In the spirit of Thanksgiving…



Setting the Stage November 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:42 pm

“Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals.”  Horace Mann

Memories of Thanksgiving as a child conjure up images of my parents’ dining room table set perfectly with a formal table cloth; my mom’s china dinnerware; crystal stemware; silver serving pieces; and all of us dressed in our “Sunday best.”  They are happy memories but I also remember being very stressed that day and anything but relaxed.  We had to wake up early to get things going and my mom expected nothing but the best of table manners during dinner.  I’m grateful for the education and, for many years, followed her traditions with my own family.  I considered it important to teach Kristen how to set a table and am hoping she’s comfortable doing so.  Lately, however, I’ve opted for a more relaxed (and fun!) Thanksgiving Day and dinner complete with TV trays and football watch parties.  Both Norman Rockwell and my mom would be mortified!


Don’t get me wrong, I do believe everyone should know the proper way to set a formal table but I also believe sometimes relaxed is the way to go.  By knowing how to set the stage and table for a formal or even informal meal, however, you can essentially paint a serving canvas for any occassion.  So, read on for my latest installment of “I like it but don’t always practice what I preach” blogs!  Even if you don’t use the guidelines for family meals, it’s good information to know when dining out.  In addition, sometimes it’s fun to jazz up a casual family dinner by simply setting the table in a formal manner.  Think about it:  paper plates and utensils look better placed properly on a table and mac and cheese never looked so good as when on a china dinner plate!


Before consulting the diagram below, here are some basic rules of thumb to remember:

“BMW” = bread, meal, water/wine.  This is an easy way to remember the order of items from left to right.  (Or, make the “okay” sign with both your left and right hand and then place your fingers facing across the table with pinkies lowest.  Your hands will make a “b,” for bread and a “d,” for drinks.)

A tip even kids can remember:  “The silverware had a fight.  The knife and spoon were RIGHT so the forks LEFT.”

Wet on the right, dry on the left.  (water, wine, coffee/tea, salad and soup utensils go on the right.  Bread and main meal utensils and napkins go on the left.)

Always place knives you are using on their corresponding plates.  Never place a used knife on the table.

Napkins stay on your lap throughout your meal.  If you leave the table for any reason, put your napkin on your chair until you get back.  Never, ever place a napkin you are using on the table.  When leaving the meal, it’s okay to nicely fold your napkin and place it down.

The proper way to eat soup is to spoon away from you and wipe the bottom of the spoon on the lip of the bowl.

Always cut your salad.

Always pass the pepper with the salt and vice versa.  Think of them as a couple.

Bread is to be torn one piece at a time, buttered one piece at a time, and eaten one piece at a time.

A white fabric table cloth will complement any formal setting.

Remember to keep centerpieces low enough so guests can see over them.

Servers will typically serve you from your right side and remove plates from your left side.

Don’t push your plate away when you are finished eating.  Instead, place your knife and fork at the top of your plate, which signals a server that you are done with that course.


I hope this helps and someday comes in handy for you.  Until then, bon appetit!







Raising the Bar November 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:12 am

Today I’m starting my first of many “Thanksgiving Tips” rather than my weekly “Tuesday Tip.”  With Thanksgiving just one week away, I thought I’d share some practical and some not so practical tips and information.  Use them as you wish!


Let’s start with, what else, setting up a proper, self-serve bar.  Granted most of us, me included, simply pull out bottles of wine and bottles of beer, but for those of you who care, there are guidelines for serving spirits with style.  Even if you could care less about being fancy, setting up a proper bar will prevent you from having to stock it repeatedly, making your time more enjoyable!  Keep in mind that, in most situations, it is customary for the host to prepare the first round of cocktails, after that, guests are on their own.


First off, pick your spot.  Choose somewhere sturdy and big enough for several people to gather around.  A central location is best, but you don’t want it to be where everyone gathers.  The actual bar should be integral to the party, but not the center of attention.


Next, gather the essentials.  Your goal, depending on budget and crowd, should be high-quality ingredients and meticulous care in preparation. You will want both red and white wines as well as dark and light beers.  As for the “hard stuff,” standard basic liquors include vodka, bourbon, rum, whiskey, tequila, scotch, vermouth and gin.  Equally important are mixers.  Club soda, cola, diet cola, tonic water, ginger ale, lemon lime, orange juice, and cranberry juice are essential.  You will also want to have a carafe or two of water as well as bottled water.


Once the ingredients are set, garnishes are next.  Be sure to include an ice bucket nearby (or better yet, ice maker, as you never have too much ice!); a jigger or shot glass for measuring; a bottle opener; a simple-to-use cork screw (key word:  simple!); and small bowls of lemons, limes, olives, and cherries.  You should also have a small cutting board and knife nearby should additional fruits be needed.   Provide a discreet towel for any minor spills and always keep a garbage bin handy but out-of-sight.  Finally, a pretty or festive glass with stirrers and a basket or tray with cocktail napkins will complete the set up.


As for glassware, go all out!  Have appropriate size glasses for white and red wines, steins or mugs for beer, high ball glasses, and a mix of other sizes including martini and margarita stems.  You will generally stock as many glasses as there are guests.   Disposable cups in various sizes are good to have on hand as well.  Toby Keith would be proud of your red solo cups!


It’s that simple friends!  If this seems like too much and you are able to staff a bartender, that is yet another option.


Finally, keep in mind that your home is the bar so you need to be responsible for those drinking in it and then driving away.  It’s important to be a savvy host but even more important to be a smart one!  Cheers!



That’s America November 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:14 am


It was only two words, but two very powerful words.


I pride myself on being the wordsmith in the family and Smitty is the numbers guy, but yesterday he was the wordsmith.  We were sitting at a table enjoying some pre-game tailgating before the OU-Baylor game when were joined by two gentlemen.  Come to find out that the elder of the two, Jerry, was the young man Chance’s godfather and a veteran.   We talked at length about his service, the Sooners, our kids, and our country.  He was a good ole boy, friendly as all get out, and now gratefully retired. He lives a simple but happy life on a lake near Tulsa, loves his godson and loves his Sooners.  He isn’t wealthy or handsome but has riches money can’t buy.  As he said goodbye and “nice meetin ya’ll,” Smitty softly said, “That’s America” as Jerry walked away.  His words literally gave me chills.  So true and so prophetic coming from the numbers guy.  Sometimes even wordsmiths are at a loss for words.


So today on Veterans Day, thank you Jerry and all veterans to whom we owe so very much.  You make us proud, you make us free, and we honor you.


Tuesday’s Tip November 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:39 pm

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. ”  Abraham Lincoln


Exercising Your Right November 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:52 pm

Today is officially the day before the day that could change this country.  Tomorrow is Election Day and so much is at stake this time around.  Most of you know my politics so I’m not going to make this a political rant.  You and I both agree that we’ve heard enough ranting and raving over the past few months to last a lifetime; most of which really doesn’t matter and probably isn’t true.  As history has proven time and time again, it’s not over til it’s over and every vote could count!



This has got to be the most tumultuous, and by-far the most expensive, presidential election ever.  It pits two vastly different men with vastly different beliefs and vastly different plans for our great nation.  What happens tomorrow could, at the risk of sounding redundant, vastly change the direction of the country and the futures of our children and their children.  It literally scares me.



Many of you may still be in that enigmatic “undecided” group.  How you can be is beyond me but amazingly you just might hold the election results in your indecisive little hands.  It’s frightening on many people take voting for American Idol more seriously than voting in a presidential election.




Whether you love or hate either or both President Obama or Mitt Romney, please vote if you haven’t already.  There are many other candidates and offices on the ballot and many of us are also voting on propositions, bonds, and other important items.  My friend Leslie told me just this morning that she heard in a news report that regardless of who wins the presidential election, many of us will probably not see a big change in our lives.  This is not always the case with local elections however.  They are most likely the ones that will affect you and your pocketbooks.  Don’t overlook or underestimate them.


I hate to admit it, but I still haven’t voted.  I will most definitely be in line tomorrow but it is not how I planned things.  I tried several times to early vote.  Come to find out that Travis County, the county I reside in, was kind enough to provide one permanent early voting location for an entire swath of populous land in northwest Austin.  If you ask me, perhaps the long-time liberal officials tried their hardest to make it difficult for voters in the more conservation northwest ‘burbs to vote.  Not so fast my friends.  We will vote!


I don’t need to remind you that voting is a right and privilege; rights denied to many.  Think of the millions in countries around the world who would appreciate and covet the simple yet powerful right that many of Americans voluntarily deny themselves.  FDR once said, “Noboyd will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote exept the American people themselves, and the only way they could do so is by not voting.”


Get out there and vote America.  Our future depends on it.



Friday Funny November 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:30 pm

Happy Friday everyone!