Beyond Words

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

Yay for Me, Thanks to You! December 31, 2012

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I started this blog in June 2012 on a whim.  I didn’t put a lot of thought into it, I just knew I love to write so why not?  Even the name of it just came to me.  Today I received my “annual report” from WordPress and I am amazed at what it showed.

In short, “I Am Woman, I’m a Wordsmith” got a little more than 2,400 views from people in 15 countries.  I had/have readers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England, France, Spain, Germany, Finland, India, Australia, Romania and Russia!  What?  I am equally honored and humbled.

How did they find me?  Popular social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest were often used but so were some very random websites and search engines.  Seems that people searching for everything from “Caroline Bissett” to “Dress Like Jackie” to “Football” found my blog.

My most popular blogs proved to be the very first one, as well as “Dates With Destiny,” “For My Biskit,” and “Be My Guest.”  I am proud to say that with this post, I have posted exactly 100 blogs since June.  I thank all of you for reading my words and for responding and forwarding them to friends and family.  As 2012 comes to a close, I look forward to writing more and hearing from you.

Thank you and Happy New Year!


No Words December 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:04 pm

 I sat down to right this blog with the intention of writing something Christmas-related.  I’ve been consumed by all things holidays this week – at work, at home, in my head – and have literally accomplished only what has to get done each given day, that very day.  No one or nothing says I have to write my blog so, sadly, it’s somehow slipped through my seasonal stresses.

But, I am grabbing a precious moment to write right now.  Writing is beneficial to me in ways I can’t even explain.  Like I said, I had every intention of writing something cheerful, but as I was looking through the photo file I often use for this blog, I ran across this picture that I took last spring in Oklahoma City:

 Jesus wept

It sits right outside the Oklahoma City National Memorial and is called “And Jesus Wept.”  I’ve seen it countless times but each time it touches me.  Jesus wept the day of the Murrah Building bombing, and he’s weeping now.  He weeps for the families and friends in Newtown, Connecticut.  He weeps for all of us.

“There is no heartache that heaven cannot heal.”

Pope John Paul II


I don’t have any words of wisdom on the horrific subject and I have no platforms to stand on.   I will leave those to the so-called “experts” on the multiple channels that have created a circus of coverage.  All I can do is pray and hope.  I pray for the families who are hurting beyond hurt.  I pray for the townspeople and for our nation as a whole.  I also pray for the many priests, pastors, ministers and leaders of faith who are now being called to nearly impossibly somehow comfort and explain.  I also hope that nothing like this ever, ever happens again.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe.  Unrealistic?  Probably.  Still, I hope and I pray.

I’ve seen many tributes, poems, and essays on the shootings, but none of them make me feel better.   Our priest’s sermon this past Sunday is the closest I’ve heard.  He reminded us that although the Christmas season is full of joy and cheer, the real Christmas was full of pain and suffering.  Joseph and Mary had been run out of their town, she was pregnant, riding a donkey in the cold, and delivered a baby in what was basically a stinky barn full of animals.  Out of all that suffering came the greatest gift of all though.  I’m hoping that the suffering in that idyllic town in Connecticut will result in something good someday.  What that might be, I have no idea.  In the meantime I will focus on that little baby lying in the hay and the one weeping.

“The Lord is close to thos whose hearts are breaking.”  Ps. 34:18



Friday Funny December 14, 2012

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three wise women


Think About It Thursday December 13, 2012

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Wednesday’s Words of Wit & Wisdom December 12, 2012

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Love this…



Tuesday’s Tip December 11, 2012

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In one of my favorite movies, “Dumb and Dumber,” John Carrey’s character is a limo driver who picks up a pretty young woman.  She enters the car and quickly tells him, “airport please.”  He, being one of the title characters, says “flying somewhere?”  It gets me every time.  It’s so dumb, it’s funny.


Air travel, on the other hand, is anything but funny or fun.  Again, tis the season though.  Are you flying somewhere during the holidays?  If so, I have some tips for you!




First off, I’m sure you realize that airports are some of the biggest gathering places of germs, but do you also realize so are airplanes?  In fact, aircraft bathrooms have the highest concentration of germs that you’ll encounter on your entire trip, especially direct or quick-connecting flights, but what to do if you really need to go?   First off, always go before you board the plane, after that my best advice is to use paper towels to flush and open and close the door and use hand sanitizer immediately upon returning to your seat.  You also probably know that airline blankets and pillows can be germ hotspots, but what about all that reading material in the seat pocket in front of you?  Keep in mind that most people don’t wash their hands before reading on-board magazines and many lick their fingers to turn the pages.  Eeeeewwww!  Best advice:  bring your own reading materials!  Finally, I know it’s often easier to go sockless through security, but unless you want to run the risk of picking up infections like athlete’s foot, wear socks when traveling!




Did you know that 57 percent of all disrupted air travel is caused by missed connections?  You’ve been there, I’m sure.  Sitting in a window seat on row 27 as your flight crawls to the gate, leaving you mere minutes to make a connection that very well could be departing out of an entirely different terminal.  Ugh!  All I can advise is to carefully consider connection times when booking flights.  Airlines, travel sites, and travel agents may offer and present you with 30 minute connections, but keep in mind that those connections are safe only when every other aspect of a flight is on time and on target.  As we all know, these are often not the norm in today’s harried world of airline travel.  Personally, I would rather sit at a gate for an hour or two rather than run the risk of missing a connection.  When booking travel, I also do my best to avoid large hubs such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Denver if possible.  Sprinting through those very large and crowded airports to make a connection can be much harder and less successful to accomplish than doing so at a smaller airport.  One last tip I have regarding connections:  travel early in the morning if possible.  Should you face any delays or missed connections, a full day’s worth of flights will provide you with more options for re-booking.



To Check or Not to Check?

I gotta say, in this case I love Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue, where your first checked bag is free.  After that, it’s a crapshoot.  Do you carry your bag on-board meaning you have to lug it in the terminal, heave it in the overhead bin, and possibly have to pack fewer things than you’d like, or do you pay the fee to check the bag but run the risk of the airline losing it?  According to Conde Nast Traveler magazine, travelers this year in the U.S. have paid more than $3 billion in checked baggage yet 2 million pieces of luggage were lost or damaged.  And, even though 99 percent of lost bags turn up within two days and are returned to their owners, it costs an airline an average of $100 to do so.  Guess who’s ultimately “paying” those fees as well?  Airlines must also refund any checked baggage fees they collected for delayed or lost bags.  International travel is even worse, with 26 million bags being lost or delayed in 2010.


In addition, those bags you see fellow travelers checking in are hardly the extent of a flight’s cargo.  Your designer duffel or Samsonite suitcase is very likely to be in the same area as many things both dead and alive.  At Atlanta Hartsfield airport alone, 6,500 bags travel through its 20 miles of conveyor belts every hour!


What can you do?

  • Photograph the contents of any checked bags before you depart and make of list of all contents.
  • Inside checked bags, put your itinerary as well as contact information.  Outside tags can easily be torn off or removed.  In addition, put the address of your destination – not your home address – on the outside of your bag.  You won’t be home should your bag get lost and such a tag could also encourage burglary.
  • Be sure to remove any previous trip tags, especially those bag check stickers airlines often affix to your bag.
  • Although you might feel special using an expensive suitcase, keep in mind that thieves are way more likely to target your bag than a run-of-the-mill piece of luggage.
  • Never, ever check anything valuable or anything you can’t replace or do without upon arrival.  This includes jewelry, money, medicines, sentimental items, and important documents.
  • Quick connections don’t automatically mean your checked bag is more likely to be lost or delayed.  Often times these bags are considered “hot bags” by airlines and are the first to be tended to.  On the flip-side, don’t check your bag too early.  Sometimes these three-hour-prior- to-departure bags get lost in the shuffle.


Know Your Rights

If an airline does lose your bag, you should immediately file a claim.  The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines compensate you for the value of the bag and its contents, up to a maximum of $3,300.  Yet another reason to not spend big bucks on an expensive piece of luggage!  You may have to go to court to get compensated anything other than vouchers, but doing so will more than likely be in your favor.


If your bag is delayed, the DOT also requires airlines provide you with stipends for items such as clothing, medicines, and toiletries.  There are no hard and fast mandatory dollar amounts, but airlines are required to post their individual regulations on-line.


Flying today is anything but fun.   It is instead often stressful, expensive, and frustrating.  But, knowing just these few bits of information might make your air travel more manageable, which could mean the difference between a turbulent flight and a soft landing.  Happy travels everyone!


Cooking with Class December 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:55 pm



I couldn’t agree more and what better time to talk about fun and eating than the holidays?  It’s the time of year when we gather round tables with friends and family to eat, drink, and be merry.  I also couldn’t agree more with Ms. Child as when she famously said, “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.”  I cannot stand cilantro…it tastes like soap and smells like stinky feet.  I am so happy I am not alone in this aversion!


I am not a serious cook but I do enjoy serious food.   There are so many TV chefs and cooking shows these days it’s almost  stress-inducing, and cookbooks are written by everyone from Rachael Ray to a take on “Fifty Shades of Gray…” for real!  In honor of good friends, good food, and good cooks, I’m dedicating today’s blog to two of my favorite famous chefs:  Ina Rosenberg Garten and Sandra Lee.   Amazingly, other than a love for cooking and entertaining, the two women could not be more different.


I have long enjoyed Sandra Lee’s “Semi-Homemade” television show and I recently her autobiography, “Made From Scratch,” which gave me a whole new level of respect for her.  There is a huge misconception that Lee was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and grew up in a life of privilege.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.


Lee and her sister were raised by their Grandma Lorraine in California after essentially being abandoned by their mom.  Although their life wasn’t extravagant, it was filled with love and set the stage for how Lee would live her life, despite many, many obstacles.


“I was going to be kind and nice, generous, supportive and nurturing, thoughtful and disciplined, and all the things Grandma Lorraine taught me to be – a lady,” writes Lee.


After raising her sister and two brothers, Lee headed out on her own and became truly a self-made, albeit homemade, millionaire.  She first arrived on the scene with “Kurtain Kraft,” a window treatment system that sold like hotcakes.  Before you could blink, she was on QVC, self-publishing her “Semi-Homemade” books, and becoming a “lifestyle goddess.”  None of it came easy though.


“I was dealt a hand that might have had a very different outcome if I ever allowed myself to feel like a victim,” she writes.  “But I have taken the lemons that life has handed me and made sweet, delicious, homemade lemonade.”


Her ideas were genius:  easy-to-follow recipes using specific brand-name products combined with fresh ingredients.  Her demographics are women she calls “semi-homemakers.”  They include both stay-at-home and working moms who run their households and run around all day doing things for others.  They are the ones in charge but make their husbands believe they are and she wants to do things quickly but efficiently so she can cross them off her ever-growing “to do” list.  On the outside these women are calm, but inside they are overwhelmed with pressure.  They take care of others, and they take care of themselves.


“A woman of grace is the hero of her home,” says Lee.  “She makes everything happen for the people in her life but never forgets to make herself a priority too.”


Sandra Lee practices what she preaches.  She creates all recipes and menus under her brand, as well as the themes, décor, and tablescapes…all designed with the intent of being easy to duplicate.  Her goal is to inspire viewers to believe that no matter what they are going through, they still have the ability to create a happy home.


“I have a passion for making a room look beautiful and a flair for doing it on a budget,” she boasts.


Lee did end up marrying wealthy, but always felt more in tune with her beloved semi-homemakers than the luxury she was surrounded by.  She says the jet set life was perhaps “fun,” but not “fulfilling” and ultimately divorced.


She still talks daily to her siblings and her most prized possession is a pair of her grandma’s shoes.  She says they represent the fact that until you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, it’s impossible to know the challenges they face and the adversity they’ve overcome.  Fittingly, her grandma’s favorite poem was the popular “Footprints in the Sand,” which Lee says reminds us that we are never alone and that no matter who you are or where you’re from, sometimes everyone needs a helping hand.”  Indeed, as she says, “asking for help doesn’t make you weak; it makes you smart.”


Love her or hate her, you cannot deny that Sandra Lee is one smart cookie…literally and figuratively.  She’s lived a life that would make her grandma very proud.



It’s Not Rocket Science

My other favorite TV cooking personality, Ina Rosenberg Garten, grew up anything but disadvantaged.  Garten was once a White House nuclear policy analyst but today we know and love her as the Food Network’s popular “Barefoot Contessa” host.  I love her low-key style and her cookbooks are some of my favorites.  She is, in a way, the antithesis of Sandra Lee yet I love them both.


Known for recipes that emphasize fresh ingredients and time-saving tips, Garten had no formal training and taught herself culinary techniques.  Quite an accomplishment for the Brooklyn-born daughter of an otolaryngology surgeon dad and opera aficionado mom.  Little Inga was always encouraged to excel in school and showed an early aptitude for science.  Today she credits that scientific gift for many of her experimental recipes.


She dabbled in cooking and entertaining as a military wife and also earned her pilot’s license.  A later trip to Paris prompted her to study the culinary talents of Julia Child and she began hosting her now famous weekly dinner parties.  All the while she earned an MBA at George Washington University after a move to Washington, D.C. with her husband and ultimately wrote nuclear energy budget and policy papers for Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.


Her job stressed her out though and she found comfort in cooking and ended up focusing on it.  It all started with a gourmet food store and now includes several best-selling cookbooks, magazine articles, self-branded products, and her popular TV show.    I love how this accomplished and educated woman is now teaching all of us how to braise, blanch, and baste.  It’s not rocket science, but it has launched her into kitchens everywhere, and as Gary Allen Sledge says, “It is difficult to know what counts most in the world, but I am beginning to see that the things that really matter take place not in the boardrooms, but in the kitchens of the world.”




Friday Funny December 7, 2012

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It’s Greek To Me December 6, 2012

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Fraternities and Sororities.  The mere mention of them brings out either critics or fans.  Naysayers claim they are old school bastions of snobbery and cultural elitism; devotees boast of brother and sisterhoods.  I see and hear both sides but know from experience that reality is somewhere in between.


Why am I even choosing, at my age, to blog about college Greek life?  Because I saw it at its finest at my friend’s son’s funeral just last week.  My first “aha” moment came when Ryan’s sister Robyn flew home from college upon hearing the tragic news of her brother.  With her on the flight?  None other than her roommate and sorority sister.  No questions, no problem.  I was of the thinking that once Robyn was home safe and sound and surrounded by family, her friend would head back to school, especially considering that finals were just one week away.  Nope.  Instead, Nicole stood and sat and cried with Robyn all week and did not return to school until the very day Robyn did.  I know, I know, you can find that kind of loyalty anywhere.  Robyn, and many others, just happened to find it in a sorority.


Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Ryan’s fraternity brothers attended services en masse…driving 3 hours to be present at the services.  They also helped coordinate a candlelight vigil at their university in honor of Ryan.  I will never forget sitting in the church, waiting for the service to begin, and seeing Ryan’s frat brothers walk in, one after another, all dressed in their letter shirts.  It gave me chills; it made me cry.  Amazingly, most of them had known Ryan for a mere three months, as he was only a freshman.  He was a freshman, however, that had clearly left his mark on and served as chaplain of his pledge class.   I will also forever remember them gathering, arm-in-arm, in a circle and heads bowed at the burial and saying a special prayer…all together and all for Ryan.




I was in a sorority in college but I entered the Greek world fairly innocently and totally clueless, a Hispanic girl from New Mexico joining in on a very Southern tradition.  I probably didn’t get it at first, but I am forever grateful for my membership in the OU Kappa Alpha Theta house and I still take a trip once-a-year with four of my “sisters.”   The big white house, to this out-of-state coed, was more than a house; it was a home.  Being a member of Theta gave me a sense of belonging and a sense of pride.  I, naturally, wasn’t fond of all 100 or so women in the house, but looking back, I am grateful for the fact that I had to attend study hall during pledgeship, memorize the entire 1 Corinthians 13 for initiation, and have good grades every semester.  To this day, I know that the four women I see and talk to regularly would be there in a heartbeat for me even though we all live in different states.  One, was in my wedding.  Yes, I will never forget or forgive current “sisters” in my very chapter house for “cutting” Kristen during recruitment last fall, but all things happen for a reason.


In the house Kristen did pledge, Alpha Chi Omega, she has also found a home.  A home where she belongs, where she is loved and accepted, and where she is forging her own trail.  She has made true and strong friendships with normal and genuine girls.  Whether she needs help with a class, is stressing over a boy, or needs a ride to the airport, she has a line of friends willing to be there for her any hour of any day.  I imagine most of them will be in her life for years to come.   But, in between making friends and making memories, Kristen also has to keep a certain grade point average, volunteer, and we are reimbursed for tutoring expenses by AXO.  Regardless of what anyone thinks, Greeks are serious about their grades and their philanthropies.  Kristen’s dream is to someday take once-a-year trips with her “sisters” and meet up with them annually at OU-Texas and OU home games.   I’m hoping she does too, as I know how special they are to me.


I can’t speak as candidly about fraternities, and yes, are some sorority traditions and rules archaic and silly?  Of course, but they also instill of sense of dedication and history into members.  I’m the first to say many take it all way too seriously, but I also am the first to admit I was beyond angry and hurt when Kristen was cut by my house.  Still am and probably always will be.  It’s not so much that I was dying for her to be a Theta, what upset me most was that girls in the very house I lived in deemed my daughter not good enough for membership.  Trust me, she is way more qualified than I ever was!  As always though, things work out for the best and AXO is where Kristen was meant to be.


Even with long-standing traditions remaining in houses across college campuses, some things have evolved.  Grades are of utmost importance now, with some houses requiring a 3.6 minimum out of high school to even be considered.  In addition, “rush” is now called “recruitment” and “pledges” are now “PNMs,” or potential new members.   It’s not for everyone but it’s not “Legally Blonde” dim-witted either.


So I ask those of you who are anti-Greek system – please don’t stereotype and automatically presume those who are, are spoiled and rich.  And those of you who are Greek, don’t be so quick to judge those who aren’t.  In the end, aren’t we all striving for the same things:  acceptance, love, comfort and fun?  Maybe it’s not so Greek after all.


Wednesday’s Words of Wit & Wisdom December 5, 2012

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