Beyond Words

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

Don’t Worry, Be Happy April 30, 2013

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Ouch.  Scary but true, right?  So what makes you happy?  Is anyone really happy?  My husband just asked me that very question, and after thinking long and hard about it, all I could come up with was being a wife, mother, and generally living my life in peace.   Kristen makes me happy.  My dog Boomer makes me happy.  My job and the kids in my class generally make me happy.  On my Facebook page, I wrote,  “I love being around friends, family and anyone who makes me laugh. I love deep conversations. I hate small talk. I hate people who are sneaky, braggy or phony. I love dogs, good music, massages, my annual college girls’ trip, coffee, good wine, Stone Crab, home décor, lighthouses, thunderstorms, snow, the beach, the mountains, the smell of Play-Do, brand new tennis balls, sinking a long putt, cashews, Marcona almonds, bookstores, Easter lilies, daisies, reading a really good book, and my Oklahoma Sooners!”  I guess that pretty much sums up what makes me happy.  Done.  No mas.


Of course we all know it’s never that simple.  “The pursuit of happiness” may be in the Declaration of Independence, but it’s not a guarantee and it’s not in the Bill of Rights.   Being happy takes work, and with so much horror and grief taking place nationally the past week or so, it’s been tough to find or feel real joy.  What is the difference between joy and happiness?  Is there a difference?


Entertainer and talk show host Steve Harvey recently put it this way:  he said “fun” is going to Vegas, the beach or a concert.  “Joy,” however, is peace of mind and being happy with who you are.  Seems he and Mr. Zigler agree on this fact.



Just last month findings from a UC Berkeley study on what and who makes us feel content were released and they were somewhat shocking.  No, money and fame were not even near the top of the list.  Of those asked about household income, social standing, personality and a sense of well-being, what was mentioned most as contributing to their happiness and sense of satisfaction  is how much they’re respected by their  friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.  The key, it appears, is being valuable to the people around you.


“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.”  Mark Twain.


It’s been said that for every minute you’re angry, you lose one minute of happiness.   I know there are many out there who have every right to be unhappy right now.  These can be depressing times and we all deserve to be “down” at times.  It’s important to acknowledge feelings of sadness but it’s equally  important to lift ourselves up out of those periods of sadness before they become a way of life.


Often times, many of us mistake comfort for happiness.  “I’ll be happy when I have that new luxury car.”  “If I had a bigger house, I’d be happier.”   Not always the case though, right?  Sure, our new couch that arrived Saturday makes me happy, but it hasn’t really changed my life in any big or true way.  Yes, it’s comfortable and pretty, but comfort is easy; joy is harder.


Mark Hansen of the “Post Masculine” website recently wrote about this very thing.  He notes that Americans have become complacent and entitled, resulting in our inability to handle anything unpleasant in our lives.  It’s also disconnecting us from the very things that drive true happiness:  relationships, unique experiences, feeling self-appreciative, and achieving goals.  Sounds like Mr. Hansen and UC Berkeley are preaching to the same unhappy choirs.


calm life


“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”  William Morris.


Maybe we’re just trying too hard.  Maybe we need to count our blessings and smell the roses instead of constantly looking at the glass half full.  Instead of always striving for perfection, maybe we should just be satisfied with good.  I’m not saying lower our standards or settle for less, but maybe think twice about what it is you want and need and the difference between the two.  (Gretchen Rubin has written about this in her two books, “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home.”  I highly recommend both of them.)


I think of the country club neighborhood I live in.  Year after year I hear people complain about one thing or another about the club and its many amenities.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is anyone or anywhere?  No!  I’ve always thought to myself, “If you’re complaining about your country club, your life is okay.”


That’s just another case in point that rich is a relative term.   In fact, a 2010 Princeton University study found that life satisfaction rises with income but that everyday happiness – the very type of happiness most of us strive for – changes little once a person earns $75,000 a year.  I follow Susie Davis’ “Good News Girl” blog and loved a post of hers last year detailing this very thing.   Susie wrote that, although each of us may not be considered rich compared to some of the most wealthy in the country, compared to the majority of those worldwide, we in fact are.  Her “Seven Quick Ways to Know if You’re Rich” included things like discovering you’re out of milk so you just drive to the store and buy some; when your car is empty, you fill it up; if you break your cell phone, you get a new one; you have electricity and hot water; and perhaps my favorite:  you have so much food in your ‘fridge, pantry and freezer that it could last you months.   Think about it…you are probably indeed “rich.”


“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.”


This reminds me of shoes and the fact that I can choose a pair for every outfit I have.  I am certainly rich in shoes!  In my preschool class I used to sing the “Happy New Shoes” song each time one of my students came to class in a new pair of shoes.  The song is the same tune as “Happy Birthday” and I got the idea from my teaching mentor, Ms. Christine, who had taught in an inner-city school where a new pair of shoes was a huge deal.  Sadly, in my suburbia class, I found I was singing the song almost daily and that it wasn’t having the impact it should.  Needless to say Ms. Carla no longer sings the “New Shoes” song to her students.


Globally, happiness and rich can mean entirely different things than they mean in the U.S.A.  In general, countries around the world measure how well society is doing by how much one earns, how many electronics are sold, and how many homes are built.  That’s HOW WELL THEY”RE DOING, not how happy they are.  Happiness means many things to many people.  Enter, happiness initiatives, federally-funded studies that measure happiness.


According to Gallup, U.S. wealth per capita has soared in recent years, but Americans aren’t necessarily any happier than before.   Columbia University’s “World Happiness Report” did find that higher incomes do indeed boost joy in poor countries, but in richer nations, more money made a small impact on one’s happiness.  Political freedom, social support, job security, health and stable families meant more across the board.


“Happiness is a place between too much and too little.”  Finnish proverb


So just where are the happiest people in on Earth…literally?  Of the 156 countries studied, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada ranked highest.  Looks like we all need to move to Scandinavia!  The U.S. ranked 11th highest, proving that although it is the richest country, it’s by no means the happiest.   Yep, “someone else is happy with less than what you have” seems more than appropriate here.



Maybe that’s the secret.  The more we think we’re happy, the happier we might be.  I like it.   After all, if we aren’t grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we will be happier with more or something different?    Today, I will choose joy and live by what Dale Carnegie said, “Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have, it depends solely on what you think.”


Think happy thoughts friends and have a happy day!




Sunday Scripture April 28, 2013

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Not quite true scripture today, but I love “Duck Dynasty” and love that prayer is such a big part of the show and their lives.




Ladies and Gentlemen April 27, 2013

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To me, the above sums it all up and is something I’ve encouraged my daughter to live by.  It’s not always easy though, which got me wondering, what exactly encompasses being a successful lady on every level?  What is elegance and how does it differ from charm, grace and class?  Where do manners and style come in?  Can I be feminine yet strong?  Let’s examine all of these.



Just last week I was telling my friend Jeannie that, with Kristen growing up, my mantra to her almost every time I talk to her has changed from “make good choices” to “be smart and be a lady.”  Although I know making good choices is still paramount, now I simply ask her, “WWAD?” and she knows that means, “what would Audrey do,” as in Hepburn.


Some say Audrey Hepburn was the quintessential lady, and I happen to agree.  She was elegant, stylish, modest, smart, and caring.  It’s important to note that she, however, wasn’t your classic All-American or bleach-blonde beauty.  In many ways she was considered beautiful because of the many additional qualities she possessed and not solely because of her physical beauty.



So what makes a true lady?


Yes, I indeed wonder and yet I am not always a lady, just ask anyone who’s watched a football game with me!  I also tend to be outspoken and fairly confident in my beliefs and abilities and I can tend to have a potty mouth when upset.  Although I admit I often need to “rein these in,” other than the potty mouth, are they necessarily bad traits?


In her book “Lean In:  Women , Work and the Will to Lead,” Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has started a bestselling firestorm claiming women haven’t made the progress they maybe should have over the last decade because they don’t “lean in” and better position themselves for promotions and senior positions.


Perhaps, but I also believe women need to be women, not men, and be true to themselves.  Just because someone is feminine doesn’t mean she’s weak.  Just because you are pretty doesn’t mean you need to dumb yourself down.  Today many women think they need to “toughen up” and be more masculine, but coming off as extremely independent and assertive doesn’t always lead to success.  You don’t need to be a push over or doormat, but you need not give anyone the opportunity to use the “b” word when describing you.




“I believe in feminine strength,” says Karla M. Davis of “The Classy Woman” blog.  “I believe in a woman being soft, elegant and graceful yet at the same time being intelligent, strong, intellectual and hardworking.”


Indeed, smart is beautiful. Unless you’re a supermodel, looks will never be enough, so it’s imperative we women receive a good, strong education.  Degree in hand, you should continue to learn, making it a life-long goal by way of interesting hobbies, reading, travel, writing, continuing ed classes, etc.  You should never cease at wanting to learn more.  Street smarts are also important.  Who hasn’t met that Ph.D holder who can’t hold a conversation or write a legit thank-you note?!


Elegance, grace, composure, warmth, charm, and class are also beautiful, yet you don’t have to be physically beautiful to be any or all of them. Think about it, it’s those people who try too hard that well, come across as they’re trying too hard.   When you try to make an impression, that’s the impression you make.


If you are a true lady with class and elegance, you are a natural and are naturally kind and caring to others.  Think of Audrey Hepburn.  She was successful and wealthy beyond words, but she dedicated much of her life to improving the lives of others.  She is the perfect example of treating others fairly, regardless of their lot in life, and living by the motto “no one is better than me and I am better than no one.”




Etiquette and manners also come into play…and in a major role.  As a matter of fact, it is nearly impossible to be an elegant lady without good manners.  As Horace Mann said, “Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals.”  Best of all, everyone is capable of learning and practicing good manners; you don’t have to be rich to have them and it’s not just about table settings.




So very true.  And, in spite of what many believe, having high standards does not necessarily make you a snob, as long as you pursue those standards in a humble and sincere way.  Arrogance and cockiness are two of the least most elegant and charming qualities I can think of…right up there with phony and sneaky.  I love someone who is just at home at a greasy diner as a five-star restaurant.  And, I’m not impressed if you know wine labels but I am impressed if you say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.”


To me, if you have good manners you are more confident.  You are composed when you need to be composed (I could learn a thing or two about this!) and you move with grace and dignity. You are also modest, whether about what you wear or what you earn.  I’ll never forget my friend Shelly telling me that, while growing up in West Texas, her grandpa always told her that “those with old money and no money are the same…they don’t talk about it.”  Well said grandpa!


That brings us to dressing like a lady and one with elegance, style, and class.




Nothing rattles me more than seeing someone dressed in something inappropriate, either age-wise or style-wise.  Casual doesn’t have to be sloppy and formal doesn’t mean slutty.  You don’t look great because you show off your body; you look great when you have style.  It doesn’t take money to have style, it just takes…style!   I’ve blogged about this before and can’t stress it enough!  Ladies, please:


  1. If you wore something when it was first on trend, when it comes back in style you are more than likely too old to wear it again.
  2. Just because something fits doesn’t mean it looks good or that you should buy it.
  3. Dress your age, regardless of your figure and size.
  4. Remember, your clothes are often the first impression you give off.  What you wear is telling others, “this is me!”




Okay, now that I’ve gotten those out of the way, let’s talk about dressing with those same ideas of grace, modesty, and dignity in mind.  It’s all the subject of a recent book I bought entitled “How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World” by Jordan Christy.  (Kristen:  are you still with me????)




In the news this week is a story about a middle school principal that is forbidding 8th grade girls attending a school dance to wear strapless dresses.  Good idea, right?  Well, apparently not everyone in the school agrees and the directive has caused quite a controversy.  My question is, why would 8th grade girls want to wear a strapless dress?  Oh yeah, I forgot, we’re living in a Hilton world.




What’s happened to a little thing called class, and I’m not talking about school?  Yes, being classy can also entail being sophisticated and polite, but it by no means has anything to do with wealth.   You can be classy merely because you have self-respect.  You can also be classy in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.  Designer clothes do not make a lady elegant or classy, her personal style and tastes do…as long as they are proper and somewhat refined…and the older you get, the more this should be adhered to.  Notice I did not say expensive.  Elegance and being a lady are priceless.  My grandma Dodie was anything but wealthy, but she always wore earrings and lipstick and her daughter, my sweet mom, has always had a sense of style.


So yes, it’s important we as women move on and move ahead, but at what cost?  Do we really want to sacrifice our femininity for a corner office?  Is it more important to attract attention than it is to earn respect?   Maybe it truly does all go back to WWAD?














Think About It Thursday April 25, 2013

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Tuesday’s Tip April 23, 2013

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Golden Rule

Paying It Forward


Just this past week my friend Kelly posted on her Facebook page that they let someone in line in front of them in a drive through, and when they got to the window to pay, the car in front of them had paid for them!  How very sweet and how very grateful.  So, Kelly and company did the same for the car behind them.  Who knows how long it went on, but it all reminded me of that fabulous movie “Pay It Forward.”


It also reminded me of an article I read in the” Austin American-Statesman” about a woman who was turning 50.  But, instead of dreading the milestone of having lived half a century, the woman made it her goal to perform 50 kind deeds in the 50 days leading up to her birthday.  Most impressively, she involved her friends and family so as not to have all the light shone on her.  Her secondary goal, you see, was to “energize others in the spirit of giving.”


What about you?  Maybe you (and me both!) won’t accomplish a daily dose of simple acts of kindness, but what about every now and then?  There are so many people in need and so many of us capable of filling those needs.   Maybe start on your birthday.  What a great idea for your kids too!  Suggest to them that on their 9th or 16th or 21st birthday they do that many good and decent things.


Just a thought to leave you on.  I’m off to make plans to do unto others as I would like them to do unto me.


Sunday Scripture April 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:57 pm




Today’s reading in mass has always been one of my favorites:  The Parable of the Good Shepherd.  In fact, I love all scripture that talks about sheep and shepherds.   I also love all of the Bible’s many parables.  They are to me, in a sense, the work of wordsmiths above all wordsmiths and offer so many messages from which we can live and learn by.


The Parable of the Good Shepherd

“Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens it for him and the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  Amen, amen I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.  I am the good shepherd and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.  I will lay down my life for sheep.”


Perhaps what I love most about this passage (John 10) is that Jesus knows us all by our first names.  In turn, we are protected when we recognize the voice of God.  We have an inner voice to do so, and it’s called the Holy Spirit.  If you listen to this voice you will be nourished by it, but if you are filled with your own agenda, you won’t.  Jesus will lead you; much like a shepherd leads his sheep, and will show you the way to do things and what decisions to make in order to find that true “pasture,” heaven.  We must strive to become part of God’s sheepfold.  Jesus laid down His life for us and if we in turn give our lives to Him we will “be full of peace, joy, contentment, understanding, personal satisfaction and fulfillment in life. “


The Lost Sheep

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the 99 in the desert and go after the one until he finds it?  And, when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and rejoices.  In just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need for repentance.”  (Luke 15: 1-7)


I am often that “lost” sheep but find it so very comforting that God is forever looking for me and carries me on His shoulders each and every time He finds me.  I am also comforted in knowing that God is more forgiving of that one “lost” sheep than He might be of the other many sheep that voluntarily follow him.  No one is perfect but God loves us all.  All we must do is listen, obey, and repent.


When you think about too, sheep are not the smartest of animals.  They follow along and rarely forge their own paths, but they know the shepherd will take care of them.  We too should follow our shepherd, which is the smartest thing to do.


Shepherds at the Birth of Christ

I have always loved the fact that Jesus, the King of all Kings, chose to be born in a very humble stable rather than a palace and that some of the first people to witness His birth were shepherds, the lowest of the low during those times.   This is so very powerful to me.  We all, including myself, strive to be “on top” and the best, but maybe we should instead strive to be shepherds.


During one of my Bible Study gatherings we read Luke 2:8-20 over Christmas and discussed what we can learn from the shepherds.  These humble workers can teach us to believe, to obey, to tell others about Him, and to be humble.  They are life lessons we can all benefit from.


I’d like to close by including Father Izzy’s “From Our Pastor” letter in today’s bulletin:

“The fourth Sunday of Easter generally focuses on the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd.  Even though in our modern world we would rarely, if ever, encounter a shepherd, the image of the Good Shepherd still evokes comfort, protection, guidance, and divine care.  Sheep wander the pasture all day and rely on the voice of the shepherd to guide them back to safety for the night.  Similarly, God lets us exercise our freedom and meander through life, but if we go astray, we can always rely on the Word of God to guide us back to the way in Jesus Christ.”


Through Your Looking Glass April 16, 2013

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“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power,” Robert T. Kiyosaki


Have you seen the new Dove soap campaign titled “You are more beautiful than you think?”  It is equally amazing and disturbing.   In the experiment aimed at changing the way you see yourself, a composite artist – like the kind who sits in court rooms – is hired.  Hidden behind a screen, he asks a woman to describe herself to him and he draws according to what she says.  Then, another woman – one who just recently met the previously drawn woman – is asked by that same artist to describe her new friend to him.  When the two drawings are compared side-by-side, it’s shocking how much prettier and flattering the friend describes the subject than the subject describes herself.   (check it out at


It’s a common problem, especially among women, and I’m the first to admit I’m as guilty as anyone.  If asked to describe my face to a sketch artist, I’d probably start with my crooked teeth and my thin eyebrows.  People have been known, and I shudder to even write this, to comment on my “good skin” and high cheekbones, but if I mentioned them at all, they would come way later.  Why is this about women? 


I will also admit that sweet Kathi T. at Chico’s in Norman last week made my day.  She was so friendly and complimentary in a genuine and congenial way that I purchased more than I normally would have and felt good about myself while trying on clothes.  She wasn’t phony or pushy.  Instead, she was simply kind and courteous.  Everyone needs this.  I needed it.   I left there feeling like she could be my new best friend.


“No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl.

All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.”  

Marilyn Monroe



I think my daughter Kristen is beautiful and everyone says she looks just like me but I certainly don’t think I’m beautiful.  How can that be?   Why are we so critical of ourselves?  Do fall into the troublesome trap of putting yourself down and only seeing what you consider your negatives?


Society as a whole certainly doesn’t help.  Plastic surgery is now a multi-million dollar industry; an industry built on the idea that your God-given face or body is just not pretty or good enough. 




In that Dove ad, there’s a voice over quote saying “We spend a lot of time as women analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right and should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like.”


Amen, and amen to Dove for reminding us to do so.


You are beautiful and it’s time to tell yourself that.