Beyond Words

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

I Resolve To… December 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:50 pm

New Years funny


January 10. That’s the date a recent British study estimated most of us will have ditched our New Year’s resolutions. Wow. I would have thought we’d give them at least a solid 30 days! Not so, even though a projected nearly half of all Americans will make New Year’s resolutions but that nearly half of them will fail at the long-term achievement of them.


What are the secrets to sticking to our new year/new me ideas? Motivational speaker and best-selling author Gabrielle Bernstein told Elle magazine that a key is to start by committing to just 40 days, rather than a whole year. In support of this tangible idea are researchers associated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the National Institute of Mental Health who reported that repeating a behavior for 40 days actually reprograms your brain by reversing neutral pathways. Start your resolution January 1 and do whatever it takes to stick to it and your chances of continuing on increase tremendously. As they say, day by day what you do is what you become. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.


Everyone from Aristotle to Andy Warhol agrees. Aristotle once said “we are what we repeatedly do” and Warhol was quoted as giving the great advice of “Either once only or every day. If you do something once, it’s exciting and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it twice or just almost every day it’s not good anymore.”



It’s not easy though, as that looming date of January 10 indicates. American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn shared his rags-to-riches story and influenced the personal development industry with quotes such as “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” It’s that kind of thinking that makes a person successful or merely “goal-ful.”


One of my favorite authors and bloggers, Gretchen Rubin, has “7 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution” and I’d like to share them with you.


1. Be specific. Don’t just resolve to “find more joy in life.” Determine what gives you joy and do that. “Watch at least one feel-good movie a week” or “get a massage once-a-month” are more likely to be accomplished than simply “be happier.”
2. Write your resolutions down. And, keep them somewhere that you can see them…daily.
3. Review your resolutions constantly. If they’re not working for you, change them.
4. Hold yourself accountable. Don’t just say “lose weight” or “eat healthier.” Hire a trainer or commit to healthy eating with a friend. And, track your progress.
5. Try making pleasant resolutions instead of just ones you dread starting. You will find resolutions like “read more” and “coffee with friends” much more fun to keep then “organize every drawer and closet,” yet they’ll still give you a sense of accomplishment. Remember, if you plan to ask a lot of yourself, it helps to give a lot to yourself.
6. Keep your resolutions every day. (We’ve heard this before!)
7. Put your energy toward changes that are both realistic and helpful and make small resolutions, rather than long-term, often unattainable ones.


That last one is something I’m going to do, thanks to Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” book and her advice of having small, monthly resolutions. The book consists of 12 chapters chronicling the author’s lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. I’m starting January 1 on chapter 1. I’m also going to do a monthly reading of the 12 chapters of Heather King’s “Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux” book. My prayer group recently read the book, but I’d like to do the chapters, written by months, one at a time.


Another New Year’s resolution I make every year is to learn something new. In the past, I’ve taken ice skating lessons, an Italian class at UT (I was a Longhorn?!), learned to cross-stitch, started yoga, took golf lessons, and last year I learned how to shoot a gun…just to name a few. For 2014, I resolve to improve this blog by figuring out how to better incorporate groups of photos in it and to also learn how to allow you, my readers, to simply click on something I mention and go directly to a link. Any techies out there who can help me?!




So, how did New Year’s resolutions get started? Initially not timed to beginnings of actual new years, many historians say the custom was started by the Babylonians and grew stronger during the Roman Empire. Regardless of their origins, make your resolutions something you truly want to accomplish, but if you stumble, make it part of the dance.


What are your New Year’s resolutions? Please share!


Sunday Scripture December 29, 2013

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I know what you’re thinking, “Robin Williams for Sunday Scripture?!” But hold on. I promise it will make sense.


The holidays are winding down and despite the familiar image of families gathered around Christmas trees and dinner tables, the holidays can be a lonely time for many. But it’s not just the holidays, as Mr. Williams so eloquently said, one can still feel alone even when not literally alone.


Enter “I Thirst,” a meditation based on the spiritual teachings of Blessed Mother Teresa. I only recently came across these beautiful words, but they entered my life when I needed them most. It is a lengthy prayer and is written under the pretense that Jesus wrote it to us. In it He assures us that He thirsts for us, saying “even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be me, I am there.”


He goes on to tell us “I come with a love for you beyond your comprehension. I come longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I come with my power that I might carry you and all your burdens and to touch your heart and transform your life. I know everything about you. Nothing in your life is unimportant to me. I have loved you always. I know your needs and worries. I know what is in your heart. I know your loneliness and all your hurts. I know especially your need for love and how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. I cherish you more than you can imagine, to the point of dying on the cross for you. I thirst for you. I thirst to love you and be loved by you. That is how precious you are to me. Come to me and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will give you peace, even in all your trials. Trust in me. Ask me every day to enter and take charge of your life and I will. I will work miracles in your life. Why? Because I thirst for you. All that you have sought outside of me has only left you empty so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from me when you fall. Give me the joy of being your Savior. It will be your belief in me and in my love that will change you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to me, right now, more than you ever have before?”


I condensed the prayer here, but that, in a nutshell is what “I Thirst” tells us. We are never alone and all of us have the very best friend just waiting to listen to and love us. All we need do is ask.

I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not evil and to give you a future of hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen. Jer 29:10-13


Peppermint’s Powerful Punch December 28, 2013

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Lisa Sieczka via Getty Images


Are you still looking at all those candy canes you bought or received during recent weeks?  Well, don’t throw them away; they could be good for you!


Cinnamon has long been known for its medicinal purposes, but did you know peppermint is also one of nature’s little health treasures?  Crunch up those canes and toss sprinkles into your coffee or cocoa, whip up some peppermint bark, or just chomp on one and you may just reap some of the following great benefits:


Peppermint is great for taming tummy troubles, ranging from nausea to menstrual cramps.  Recent evidence shows it’s also a powerful response to irritable bowel syndrome.  In fact, an Italian study found that IBS symptoms were significantly reduced among 75 percent of patients who took peppermint oil capsules for one month.


Peppermint has also been known to curb cravings and who doesn’t want to do that after the holidays?!  In one study, just smelling peppermint oil every two hours made participants less hungry, resulting in them eating 2,800 fewer calories than those who didn’t smell the sweet scent.


Holidays tend to bring on headaches caused by tension, anxiety and alcohol, but did you know that rubbing peppermint oil on your forehead and temples is just as effective as acetaminophen?


Tis the season for stuffing noses, and yes, peppermint can help here too.  Peppermint is chalk-full of menthol, the compound found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.


The scent of peppermint can also improve concentration.  The yummy scent has been linked to greater alertness, motivation, and even performance.  One Maryland middle school has gone so far as to provide peppermint candies for students during state-wide testing periods.



 candy canes2


Now, about those candy canes.  They too have an interesting story behind them.  Think about  it:  the shepherd’s crook was at the first worshipping of Christ as the shepherds paid homage to the newborn savior and a candy cane looks just like one of their crooks.  The colors of the candy cane, red and white, are also significant as they represent our Lord’s sacrifice and purity.  And finally, turn a candy cane upside down and what do you get?  The letter “J” for Jesus!


So enjoy one of the season’s most popular treats, feel their healing power, and don’t forget what they stand for.






Friday Funny December 27, 2013

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3 kings gps



Sunday Scripture December 22, 2013

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The Real 12 Days of Christmas

We’ve all heard the song and we’ve all sang it a million times, but what does it really mean?  Here, is what those two turtle doves, four calling birds, nine ladies dancing, and the rest of the cast really symbolize: 

First Day:  A partridge in a pear tree (Jesus)

Second Day:  2 turtledoves (Mary and Joseph)

Third Day:  3 French Hens (The 3 wise men)

Fourth Day:  4 Calling Birds (the 4 gospels)

Fifth Day:  5 Golden Rings (the first 5 books of the Old Testament)

Sixth Day:  6 geese-a-laying (the 6 days of creation)

Seventh Day:  7 swans-a-swimming (the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

Eighth Day:  8 maids-a-milking (the 8 Beatitudes)

Ninth Day:  9 ladies dancing (the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit)

Tenth Day:  10 lords-a-leaping (the 10 Commandments)

Eleventh Day:  11 pipers piping (the 11 apostles)

Twelfth Day:  12 drummers drumming (Apostle’s Creed 12 beliefs)


Wednesday’s Words of Wit & Wisdom December 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:21 pm




The 3 Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts.  In their honor, here are some Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, give forgiveness

To an opponent, give tolerance

To a loved one, give your heart

To  a child, give a good example

To everyone, give respect



You’re Invited December 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:15 pm



You are invited to…a holiday party…and more than likely more than one.  The time span between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year is oddly short, meaning holiday parties are being crammed into fewer days and nights.  What to wear, what to wear?


I love sparkle and glittery looks, and they are all the rage right now…thankfully!  Even if they weren’t, I’m one to say “do it big” during the holidays, and uber-stylist and designer Rachel Zoe agrees.


“The holiday season is the perfect excuse to add as much sparkle to your life as possible,” Zoe wrote in her Zoe Report.  “Every festive get together from now until New Year’s calls for shimmer!”


I love it!  Best of all, it doesn’t have to be a formal black tie event to warrant a little sparkle.  If it’s a more casual party you are attending, simply carry an embellished clutch with a little black dress or try pairing a sequin top with skinny jeans and some fun, sparkly shoes like these from Kate Spade that I adore:



I also love these silver glittery smoking loafers from Target (I have them in gold) and these multi-colored glittery ballet flats from JC Penney (I have very similar ones from 9 West)

glitter target flat      glitter flat JCP

Head-to-toe Dolce and Gabbana liquid gold heaven:

glitter D&G


Silver and gold glitter options

glitter silver   glitter dress


Dressed down but dressy ideas from Nordstrom and Polyvore:

glitter nordstrom                        glitter outfit


Don’t forget the small details:

glitter nails               glitter clutch







Speaking of LBDs, they are always in style and the holidays provide the perfect opportunity to jazz them up a bit with glitz and glamour.  Lace is also remains popular, as is the menswear trend.  I know if we were attending our club’s big New Year’s Eve bash this year I would perhaps be wearing a stylish women’s tux of some sort.  I just love the look!


To make the menswear look work however, be sure to add ladylike touches to your ensemble to create a feminine feel (sky-high heels, statement jewelry, bold lip color, etc.) and keep it from looking like a costume.  Also keep it simple and stick to a classic black and white color scheme.







Whatever your occasion, your goal is to be comfortable yet look polished.  Three simple ways to do so are to start with a great haircut, get a professional manicure (this is the time for fun metallic or glittery polish!), and shape those eyebrows.  As they say, “if eyes are the windows to the soul, eyebrows are the frames.”


Still not sure what to wear?  Well, without knowing where you’re going and what your tastes are, I can’t really offer more help, but I can help you decipher the sometimes confusing dress codes, which are:



Black Tie – Women should wear formal full-length or cocktail dresses and men should wear a tux.  Black or other dark colors are preferred.


Black Tie Optional/Semi-Formal – Elegant long or knee-length dresses should be a lady’s option.  If you choose to wear a short dress, be sure to pick one in rich colors and “dress it up” with special jewelry.  Men should wear either a tux or dark dress suit.


Cocktail – This is your chance to be playful yet tasteful.  Use color or sparkles to add a little “je ne sais quoi,” but be sure to keep it classy.  Dark suits for men.


Business Casual – Women should wear a light and airy dress and even the right pair of sandals will work.  For men, a linen suit is perfect.


When all else fails, keep in mind “better overdressed than underdressed” and during the holidays, who can argue with designer Bill Blass when he says:


wear red


Have fun and cheers!


Sunday Scripture December 15, 2013

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1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls,

but do not show love to my family, I am just a decorator.

 If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of Christmas cookies and arranging a beautifully adorned table,

but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook.

 If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, carol in a nursing home, and donate to charity,

but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing.

 If I attend holiday parties but do not go to mass, I have missed the point.

 Love stops cooking to hug a child.

Love sets aside decorating to kiss a spouse.

Love is kind during the holiday though harried and tired.

 Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china, perfectly strung outdoor lights, or a perfect tree.

 Love doesn’t ask kids to get out of the way but is thankful they are in the way.

 Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those we love.

 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails, especially at Christmas.


Oh Tannebaum December 14, 2013

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O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves



My dear friend Christie who lives in Florida once shared that during hurricane evacuations she packs her photos and her shoes.  I would for sure take photos, along with important documents, but I would also take something else that’s very dear to me:  Christmas ornaments.


Acquired from throughout my life, the ornaments include an old spool “Santa” from my childhood to expensive keepsakes to handmade gems from a young Kristen.  The collection also includes memorable ones from nearly every trip I’ve taken and every place I’ve visited, ranging from Austria to Austin.   Taking them out one by one reminds me of so much and reminds me that they are all, regardless of style or cost, priceless heirlooms.  Our tree is never one of those color-coordinated, picture-perfect “Southern Living” cover trees.  It is a hodge-podge of memories…and it’s always a real tree.


Thankfully both Smitty and I grew up with real Christmas trees so a fake one is out of the question for our family.  Back in Santa Fe, we always had a Blue Spruce.  I can smell it as I write this.  We decorated it with those old-fashioned colored lights and tons of icicles…and I mean tons…put on one at a time and draped just so over individual needles.


Although I don’t use icicles today, I do have a sentimental package of them that I keep with my Christmas stuff.  And, instead of those old-school colored bulbs, which are now nearly impossible to find, I use all white lights.  Thankfully I do have some of those colored bulbs from my mom and I put them all in a big glass bowl and sprinkle “snow” among them.  Looking at them make me smile




But why the trees?  Do you even know why we have them?


Many believe the custom began many moons ago when St. Boniface, who was a priest from England, traveled to Germany to convert the pagans.  He found some success, but many still worshiped what they considered a sacred oak.  Boniface went into the forest and cut down an evergreen and took it into town.  He then cut down their sacred oak, which infuriated them, but he showed them that unlike the oak that lost its leaves every year, the evergreen did not lose its leaves.  This, he said, is much like the life Jesus offers us:  never ending and always there.




Today we purchase trees from tree lots and big lot stores.  Some of us go to tree farms and actually cut one down.  I have never done this but have always wanted to.   It takes a long time for those trees to grow and did you know they are trimmed once-a-year so their branches make the triangle shape we all love?  After about eight years of growing in a farm or forest, trees are selected for their new homes:  yours and mine!


Even though I love real Christmas trees, one other kind that I’m not ashamed to admit I like are those gaudy aluminum ones.  They are so much fun and remind me of childhood neighbors who always had one.




I love Christmas trees.  I love a room where the only lighting is the tree.  They are magical.  This week in my preschool class, I talked all about Christmas trees and read the kids one of my favorite Christmas books, “The Night Tree.”


What kind of tree do you have?  Do you have any special memories or special ornaments?   Please share!


 Christmas 7

A Christmas Tree Glossary

Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Douglas Fir – One of the most common holiday trees, it boasts firm branches and soft needles that emit a fragrance when crushed.  It is also one of the lighter weight trees, making it easy to transport.


Noble Fir – Sturdy branches make this Pacific Northwest native a good choice if you have a lot of and/or heavy ornaments.   The tree’s straight and strong limbs give it a full, rounded appearance.


Fraser Fir – A pair of slivery stripes on the underside of each needle distinguishes this aromatic tree from the nearly identical Balsam Fir.  It has strong, upturned branches that are ideal for holding ornaments.  The Balsam Fir’s needles are deep green and the tree has a pyramid shape and slender top.


The sweet-scented Concolor Fir is tall and narrow with loosely spaced, bluish needles that are great for showcasing ornaments.  It is sometimes called a White Fir.  Nordmann Firs are the preferred Christmas trees in Europe and are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.  They are prized for their fat pyramid shape and lush, dark green foliage.


White Pine – This large, blue-green tree is often sheared to have a narrow silhouette, making it popular for small areas.  Its limbs are very dense though, which can tend to obscure ornaments.


Carolina Sapphire Cypress – This southern dweller is naturally broad and has a strong lemon and mint scent.   Like the Blue Ice Cypress, its branches can support small lights, tinsel and a few ornaments, but if you’re looking for a tree that can hold much and/or heavy adornment, these are not the trees for you.  The Leyland Cypress is the most popular tree in the Southeast.  They can be tall or fat and need to be watered several times a day.


Blue Spruce – A popular Christmas tree because of its symmetrical form and attractive blue foliage, this state tree of both Colorado and Utah also boasts great needle retention and a narrow, pyramid shape.



Blessing of the Christmas Tree

God of all creation, we praise you for this tree that brings beauty and memories and the promise of life to our home.  May your blessing be upon all who gather around this tree, all who keep the Christmas festival by its light.  Amen.


Tuesday Tip December 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:39 pm


Letter Perfect


Dear Friends and Family:


Merry Christmas!  We hope the past year has been good to you.  It’s been great for us!  We won the lottery, all of our kids are straight A students and working on their PhDs at Ivy League schools, we ran several marathons, never argue or fight, took several fabulous trips, and couldn’t be happier!


Does reading that make you want to read more?  Probably not.  But, that can often be the case with Christmas letters.  The evil step-sisters of previously simple and often religious cards, these annual missives of good cheer have gotten out of hand.




I used to send friends and family a Christmas letter from the Smiths.  I cleverly (well at least in my mind!) made it look like a newspaper front page and included all the news that was fit to print regarding Carla, Steve, and Kristen.  Then came Facebook, texting, email, Skype, and all the other ways we now keep up and keep in touch with those we love and those we kinda like.  Anything I’d include in a Christmas letter most people already know about via posts and status updates.  My Christmas letter became a thing of the past.


I used to do it big too.  I was never one to get a standard “send to everyone” card.  I always bought several styles and themes and matched them to those I sent them to.  Every year I’d also invite girlfriends over for cocoa, wine, and holiday snacks and we sit around and get our cards done while the kids were in school.  It was both fun and productive. Sadly, in a move that disappointed those I always invited, the card party also become a thing of Christmases past.


I’ve always loved Christmas cards and still have a box of many of my favorites.  I remember my mom sending and receiving Christmas cards and displaying them on our stairway.  It was so much fun to get them in the mail.  That’s how it all started.  Then came family photos followed by Snapfish collages and professionally designed letters.  Today it’s one more thing that society has turned into a competition.


Everyone has an opinion about the Christmas letter, which is usually chock-full of competitive musings.   Some people love them; others loathe them.   What most people do like are photos and personal notes and signatures.  What people don’t like is excessive bragging or a mass-produced photo card with no personalized signature.


Are you planning to share your holiday glad tidings in the form of a Christmas letter?  If so, make yours magical and one that recipients actually enjoy reading.  Here are some tips:


  1. Keep it simple and keep it to one page.   Anything longer than one page will be quickly dismissed by those reading it.
  2. Limit over-designing the letter.  Use one font  and include only a couple of photos.  No one wants to see you, Jimmy, Johnny and Suzy in five different poses.  All people want to see is how everyone looks today…not how they looked on the beach at Spring Break last March or snow skiing last February.
  3. Have a sense of humor and don’t write so seriously.   Have fun!
  4. Focus on a few things, rather than a listing of many.  Include new jobs, moving to a new city, weddings, graduations, and other milestones, but kids’ report cards and vast array of activities is tiresome.   If you must brag about something, preface it with something like “allow me to boast for a minute…”
  5. Keep in mind that you’re writing a CHRISTMAS letter, so include something with the holiday spirit.  Include an interesting family tradition, your favorite holiday recipe, or shre why this year’s celebration will be special.
  6. People don’t want to hear that your life is perfect.  No one’s is so include some “cons” with all your “pros.”  It’s okay to include major surgeries, a death in the family, or surviving a flood, but skip minor surgeries or setbacks.   Suzy may be an honor student but she didn’t make cheerleading and learned valuable lessons from not doing so and is enjoying having others cheer for her on the cross country team!
  7. Personalize every single one with a handwritten note at the bottom.
  8. Most importantly, be yourself!  Don’t try to be someone you’re not and don’t make your family out to be Ward and June’s bunch either.   We all have issues and challenges and admitting it endears us to those we are so desperately trying to impress.



One last idea I’d like to suggest, and one that I still try to do, is place all the cards you receive in one big basket.  After dinner, when they come in the mail, or anytime you want, talk about the person who each card is from and how you know them.   In today’s spread out and mobile world, our kids don’t often know our high school friends, college buddies, and even some relatives and former neighbors.  Read the card from these special people in our lives, tell your kids about them, and maybe even say a prayer for them.



Do you have any other tips or suggestions for Christmas (or any holiday) letter or card?  Please share!