Beyond Words

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

A Gala, A Film Fest, and An Awards Show May 26, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:28 am

The past few weeks have been almost as exciting fashion-wise as awards season earlier this spring. We’ve had The Met Gala, Cannes Film Festival, and most recently the Billboard Music Awards. As always, there were red carpet hits and misses among the winners and losers. Here is my take on all three.


Met Gala

I thought Emma Watson killed it in this black and cream Calvin Klein piece…er pieces. The bustier, pants, and long train were not only distinctive and daring, they were made entirely from recycled bottles.



I also thought New Yorker Ivanka Trump was uh-mazing in this red Ralph Lauren silk crepe pantsuit. Haters gonna hate but the girl has style. Have you checked out her shoe line? And while you’re at it, check out her previous foray onto the Met Gala steps in a cobalt blue stunner. There’s a reason artists want to sketch her.

Ivanka Trump in Ralph Lauren1  Ivanka previous  Ivanka sketch1


Cindy Crawford looked insanely good and showed them she still has it in this body-hugging, sheer-paneled Balmain sparkler. Love her simple hair too.



News anchor Megyn Kelly proved she has style to go with those brains and that beauty in a black Badgley Mischka gown that perfectly saved its party for the back.

Megyn megyn-kelly


I also think Amber Heard, also known as Mrs. Johnny Depp, brought the glam in this champagne hued Ralph Lauren drapey dream. Her long Veronica Lake-like locks and bold lip elegantly completed the look. And those sick gold pumps! I could die.

met-gala-amber-heard-RLauren and GOLD shoes


All the talk was about Taylor Swift’s bold new edgy look, platinum hair, her daring Louis Vuitton ensemble as well as Beyoncé’s “take this Jay Z” nude latex Versace. Yes, I said latex but no I didn’t love it. Still, hats off to both music legends for bringing it. The crowd went wild.

met-gala-taylor-swift-LVuitton met-gala-beyonce-versace





Cannes Film Festival

From New York to France we go for the Cannes Film Festival, the French Riviera’s annual film and fashion extravaganza.

I have no idea who Fan Bingbing is, but I loved her pale pink embroidered Ralph & Russo couture gown with a train. I’m still in awe of this its detailing. I also kinda like her name!

Fan Bingbing in Ralph and Russo couture



Yet another fun frock I favored was Cheryl Cole’s Naem Khan colorful body-con number. Usually way too eccentric for my more traditional taste, this Khan had me at hello. I mean, just look at it! Loved Cole’s slick ponytail and jewelry-free neck as well. This L’Oreal ambassador and girlfriend of One Direction’s Liam Payne most definitely has much to smile about. That dress is just one of them.

British singer Cheryl Fernandez-Versini poses on May 13, 2016 as she arrives for the screening of the film "Ma Loute (Slack Bay)" at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)



Okay, before I continue let me address the elephant in the room: Bella Hadid’s red satin “slit to there” Alexandre Vauthier. Did she look beautiful? Yes. Was her hair and make-up on point? Double yes. Were her shoes killer? Heck yes. Was it a little too much? I think so.

bella hadid in alexandre vauthier


Don’t believe me? Check out this angle:

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 18: Model Bella Hadid attends "The Unknown Girl (La Fille Inconnue)" Premiere duirng the annual 69th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)


Hadid is the 19-year-old model daughter of Beverly Hill’s Housewife Yolanda Hadid and her ex-husband, gazillioinaire real estate developer Mohamed Hadid. She is also the sister of fellow “model of the moment” Gigi Hadid and is dating music’s current “it” man, The Weeknd. In other words, she does what she wants and she wears what she wants. I just wish she’d smile once in a while and stop trying to grow up so darn fast.

Bella Hadid in Cavalli Couture



In contrast to Hadid’s risqué “look at me, look at me” dress, these three ladies showed everyone how to do red and do it right.


Even though Katy Perry looks a little like an emoji, I thought she looked flawless in her flamenco-inspired Marchesa. In fact, she’s never looked better!


And Kate Moss. Vintage Halston. One shoulder. Hair back. Black bag and shoes. Simplicity yet perfection.

Katy Perry in Marchesa Kate Moss in vintage Halston1

Geena Davis looked radiant and beautiful in her red Rubin Singer.

Geena Davis in Rubin Singer


I also really liked Davis in this playful daytime Dolce & Gabbana. Not one to make many a “best dressed” list, I thought Davis killed it at Cannes.

Geena Davis in Dolce & Gabbana


Someone else who killed it was fashionista Sonam Kapor who made jaws drop when she arrived in this stunning white and bedazzled Ralph & Russo caped gorgeousness. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wear this dress and look like this? I’d say her title is well-deserved.

Sonam Kapoor in Ralph and Russo


Naomi Watts is usually one of my red carpet faves and she didn’t disappoint in this sparkly silver Michael Kors sheath.

Naomi Watts in crystaly Michael Kors


The little black dress went big and bold with Kendall Jenner’s Roberto Cavalli while Karlie Kloss’ simple and slit Marchesa was one of my Cannes favorites. Loved it Karlie. Loved it. Again, sometimes less is more.

Kendall in Roberto Cavalli Karlie Kloss in Marchesa


And speaking of black, how stunning does Charlize Theron look in this Dior couture take on a women’s tux? Perfection. Total perfection.

Charlize in Dior couture


The pregnant and beautiful Blake Lively pretty much stole the show the whole two weeks of Cannes and I especially liked this little “I’m a cake topper” baby blue tiered Vivienne Westwood. I remember seeing Lively in “The Sisterhood of Travelling Pants” years ago and thinking “this girl is gorgeous and is going to go far.” It took her longer than I expected, but she has proven me right.

Blake Lively in Vivienne Westwood


Last but certainly not least were the forever fashion flawless Amal Clooney and multi-talented Anna Kendrick, both of whom brought a little yellow sunshine to the red carpet. As always, Amal was straight out of a “how to do it right” fashion textbook in her pale yellow Atelier Versace while Kendrick’s canary yellow Stella McCartney was both bold and beautiful.

 George-Amal-Clooney-Atelier Versace Anna Kendrick in Stella McCartney1





Billboard Music Awards

I wish I could say the Billboards brought out the glam, but that just wasn’t the case. I was in fact bored at the Billboards. So much so that my “best dressed” list contains only one entry: Priyanka Chopra in this lovely and slit blue Atelier Versace. Yes she’s an actress and not a singer, but maybe she could teach some of the songstresses a thing or two about style.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Actress Priyanka Chopra attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BBMA2016/Getty Images for dcp)


Instead, we got this…

Brittany Spears desperately trying to hang on to her 1980s persona. Girl, you are now a grown woman and a mom. Drop the trashy look and let your natural beauty shine. Besides, desperate doesn’t look good on anyone.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Honoree Britney Spears attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)


We also got this…

Demi Lovato wearing I’m not really sure what other than a hot mess, Heidi Klum once again giving us a red carpet epic fail (she is a super model, right?), and the usually reliable Jessica Alba pretending she’s younger than she is and pretending the Las Vegas weather was colder than it was.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Singer Demi Lovato attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BBMA2016/Getty Images for dcp)

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Model Heidi Klum attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BBMA2016/Getty Images for dcp)

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Actress Jessica Alba attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)


Then there’s the gor-gee-us Ciara again trying too hard. Can you say Bella Hadid at Cannes? We get it Ciara. We know you’re beautiful and we know you have a killer body. We also know you and fiancé Russell Wilson have taken a pre-marital vow of chastity. You can’t have it both ways. You’re either a lady or you’re not. This dress, as perfect as your body looks in it, is anything but ladylike. Keep it classy Ciara. We like you better that way.


I didn’t hate Zendaya’s salmon midriff-baring ensemble, but I do hate that she is waaaay too thin. Not a good role model for all the young girls who look up to the Disney starlet.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Actress/singer Zendaya attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BBMA2016/Getty Images for dcp)


Even fashion queen Rihanna disappointed. At a music awards show no less! Her olive green, double-breasted dress was pretty but it would be much prettier at a graduation ceremony or hometown awards banquet. The Manolos on her feet were beyond amazing though.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Singer Rihanna attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

So, there you have it, another style wrap up. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed watching the red carpets and writing about them. Til next time!




Read My Lipstick May 25, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:07 am


“For attractive lips, speak kind words.”

Audrey Hepburn


I recently wrote about warm and cool skin tones and what to wear with the one you’ve been blessed with, including lipstick shades. Today I’m going a bit further and focusing just on lip color: how to create a good lip color “wardrobe,” how to make lipstick last longer, what colors will enhance your face, and I am also sharing some of my favorite shades and brands.


First off, every woman needs three lip colors in her cosmetics collection: a trendy shade, a versatile nude, and a classic red. Hot trends for this spring are a pop of hot pink (I like Givenchy’s “Fuchsia Irresistible”), 60’s coral, and glittery metallics. Whether you like matte or glossy, lip gloss or lipstick, these three items are a make-up must for women young and old. What we all want is a pigment that doesn’t stain the lips or stay on too long and one that is not overly dry.


I almost always wear lipstick or lip gloss. I also have lip balms everywhere…in my purse, in my car, at my desk, at work, in my nightstand. Literally, everywhere. Maybe it all goes back to my grandma Dodie, who at all times had on earrings and lipstick regardless of where she was going or what she was wearing. She must have passed this habit on to my mom, who has a drawer-full of lipsticks and first introduced me to the original Tangee lipstick that is famously clear to look at but changes to the perfect color to complement your skin. I still like it to this day!


My collection of lip color runs the gamut price-wise. Chanel’s shimmery and high-shine Levres Scintillantes lip glosses are near and dear to my heart, but so are the more affordable Pure Illumination glosses. I love that they have a mirror on the tube and a bonus push light. Lipstick-wise, my long-time go to color is Mary Kay’s “Toffee.” Depending on what I wear, it can go coral, red, and even a darker neutral and it goes on velvety and isn’t too sticky. Basically, it’s perfect!



Angelina Jolie

Full-lips are everywhere. Many are God-given (Angelina Jolie) but many more are not (too many to name.) But, regardless of what the fake-lipped Kardashians would have you to believe (I’m talking to you Kylie and your Kylie’s Lip Kit), fuller isn’t necessarily better.


Elle magazine recently reported that, according to a study from the University of Manchester, lip size is insignificant when it comes to perception of attractiveness. Thankfully it’s pigment that matters most. For the study, the eye movements of men were tracked and showed that they spent 2.2 seconds on lipstick-free mouths, 6.7 seconds on pink lips, and 7.3 seconds looking at red lips…all regardless of fullness. Can I get an “amen” from all my fellow thin-and normal-lipped sisters?


So nude is good, pinks are better, and red is the best? Yes and no. IMHO, nudes are top dogs because they go with everything and can easily go from day to night without a hitch. As for pinks, a deep one will instantly brighten up your look while reds are oh so timeless and ever so glam.



Lip Service

Once you’ve chosen a color, how do you make it last? Makeup artist and Chanel brand ambassador Kate Lee told Allure magazine that her favorites are “velvet” lipsticks, which give you a matte look but also have emollients. She suggests first applying a lip balm and let it sit for 10 minutes, then apply the lipstick. She’s not a believer in primers prior to lip color, and who’s going to argue with Chanel?


When applying your lip color, don’t by way of costly but unnecessary applicators, instead apply it straight from the lipstick bullet, or case, and after doing so, blend it with a brush. You can also blot any excess color with a tissue before applying another layer. Lastly, Lee suggests spreading a very light layer of transparent powder for extra staying power underneath a third layer of lipstick. Sound complicated? Maybe, but it works! Another trick is shared by superstar Celine Dion, who first dabs foundation on her lips followed by a fill-in with lip pencil, and then the lipstick. She swears this process helps keep her lip color intact throughout her stage shows. Who knew?



Give a woman lipstick


Now for colors and brands. Here are some of my favorites and some that are industry favorites.



I love Mary Kay’s “Apricot Glaze” and my daughter swears by Tom Ford’s “Sable Smoke” (but it looks ghastly on me!) I also really, really like Mac’s “Love Child” lip gloss and Chanel’s “Coco” is fabulous, albeit more on the expensive side.


Tom Ford lipsticks are known to be highly-pigmented and long-lasting. They also boast a creamy texture and the trademark “TF” stamp on the tip. They’re almost too pretty to use!




Revlon’s “Soft Shell Pink” is an enduring darling and I love Mary Kay’s “Dusty Rose” and Marc Jacob’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” If you’re lucky enough to find a Tom Ford “Cherry Lush,” grab it, as the pinkish-red always sells out. Last year’s Pantone color of the year, Orchid, is a more purpley pink, but it works on almost all skin tones. Just make sure you pick a more sheer one if you’re fair-skinned and more opaque if you’re darker skinned.




The lip color of all lip colors, right? Who doesn’t have images of Liz Taylor or JLo in a vibrant red lip? Revlon’s “Fire and Ice” is a stalwart and boasts SPF15, while right behind it in popularity is Chanel’s trademark “Allure” in its click-open case. Mac’s extra matte and much-loved “Ruby Woo” is right behind them, as is Tom Ford’s “Alejandro.” “Danger” by YSL is also popular and is nice in that it goes on sheer but has the perfect amount of color.


Finally, don’t forget to match your lip shade with your skin undertone. Warm skin tones should wear orange-reds, brick reds, peaches, peachy pinks, and corals. Those with cool undertones look best in blue-based reds, cranberry, wine, pink reds, and rosy pinks.


Not sure what to buy? Visit your nearby cosmetic counter or store and ask for help! The men and women there love the practice, do it for a living, and are for the most part, experts at it.


Have fun and go glam!


Lipstick shape meanings

Just for fun, I found the above little gem. It’s a chart of what your lipstick shape reveals about your personality. As much as I’ve always tried to have a flat tip, my lipsticks are all the first example, slanted and close to the original shape. Amazingly, the description of it matches my personality almost to a tee! What about you?


Tone It Down May 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:32 pm

Figuring out if my skin has “warm” or “cool” undertones has always been confusing for me. I tend to gravitate toward the same colors again and again clothes-wise (black, white, and khaki with an occasional pop of red, pink, emerald green, or cobalt blue), but are those the colors I should be wearing considering my skin tone? And what about lipstick and nail color? Pinks or reds? Neutrals or oranges? Are you wondering too? Then read on my fellow wonderer.


Skin tones1

Under Not Over

Before we get started, it’s important to know the difference between your skin’s surface tone and its undertone. When talking “cool” or “warm” we’re not talking about the color of your skin; we’re talking about the color underneath the surface of your skin: its undertone. You can have the same skin color as someone else but have an entirely different undertone. Scarlett Johannsson and Anne Hathaway are both cool undertoned, while Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Kidman are each considered warm undertoned. I know, confusing right?


There are generally three undertones: cool, warm, and neutral. If you’re lucky enough to be in that last category, yay for you as you can wear just about any color. For this blog’s purpose though, I’m focusing on just warm and cool. But how, you ask, do you know which one you are?


Those with warm skin generally have yellow, peachy, or golden undertones while cool-toned people have more pink, red, and blue undertones. Your goal in buying everything from shirts to lipsticks is to match your skin’s undertone. Yeah, right.



Pass the Test

One method of determining which colors look best on you is to look at your veins. If the ones on the inside of your wrist look more greenish, you have warm golden undertones. But, if they look more blueish, you have a cool skin tone. (Interestingly, if you are “warm,” you don’t really have green veins, they look that way because you’re seeing them through yellow-toned skin and it all goes back to color mixing: yellow and blue make green!)


Another method is to press your thumb against your inner forearm for a few seconds then release it. Keep note of whether the spot has a flash of yellow or a flash of pink before the blood rushes back. If more yellow, you are warm. If more pink, you are cool.


Jewelry is another good indicator of your skin’s undertone. If you look better in silver and platinum metals, you’re probably cool toned while warm-toned girls tend to look better in gold. Keep in mind it’s not the jewelry metal you prefer or like better, but the one that looks best on your skin.


Do you sunburn easily and watch it turn pink or do you turn golden brown in the sun? A burn that turns pink first is a good indicator that you are cool toned but someone who can boast a tan to be envied is likely warm-toned. Either way, stay out of the sun and wear sunblock!


Naturally, your natural eye and hair color reveal hints as to your skin’s undertone. Again, your natural hair color! Most cool people (skin undertone speaking only!) have blue, gray, or green eyes coupled with blond, brown, or black hair but with blue, silver, violet, and ash undertones. On the other hand, someone with brown, amber, or hazel eyes and strawberry blond, red, brown, or black hair with gold, red, orange, or yellow undertones is more than likely warm toned.


Finally, do you look better in bright whites and true blacks or off-whites and more tan and brown shades? The former means you’re probably cool-toned while the latter makes you warm.


Okay, so now what? Now you can go shopping!



Color Me Happy

If you are a warm-toned reader, head straight to anything yellow, orange, brown, yellow-green, or warm red. My cool friends should lean toward blues, greens, pinks, purples, blue-greens, magentas, and “blue-based” reds.


When it comes to make-up, if you have warm undertones, choose yellow or peach-based foundation and coral or peach blush. Cool-toned girls need to stick to pink-based or neutral foundation and rosy or pink for their cheeks. Lipstick can be a little more tricky, which I painfully recently discovered in Dallas.


In search of a good, solid neutral lip color, I visited a reputable high-end cosmetic counter, sat down, tried on color after color, and walked away with not one lipstick. Neither warm nor cold, I was simply a hot mess. Turns out the ones I order through a Mary Kay rep are just right for me. Good to know.


In general, warm undertoned ladies look best in orange-reds, brick-reds, peaches, peachy pinks, and corals while those with cool undertones are complimented by lipsticks in the blue-based red, cranberry, wine, pink reds, and rosy pink spectrum. Consider the photo below exhibit A. Both are red lipsticks, right? But, the one on the left is a “cool” red while the one on the right is a “warm” red. Case closed, next case.




To make it easier, here’s a little clip and save cheat sheet to keep with you:


Warm Undertones

Green veins

Silver and platinum jewelry looks best

Tans doesn’t burn in sun

Eye are brown, amber, or hazel

Hair is strawberry blond, red, brown, or black hair with gold, red, orange, or   yellow undertones

Neutrals: off-white, brown, tan

Colors: yellow, orange, red

Foundation: yellow or peach-based

Blush: coral or peach

Lipstick: orange-red, brick-red, peach, peachy pink, coral


Cool Undertones

Blue veins

Gold jewelry looks best

Burns in the sun and burn turns pink

Eyes are blue, gray, or green

Hair is blond, brown, or black hair but with blue, silver, violet, and ash undertones.

Neutrals: white whites and true blacks.

Colors: blue, green, purple

Foundation: pink-based or neutral

Blush: rosy or pink

Lipstick: blue-based red, cranberry, wine, pink red, and rosy pink



If you’re like me, you may still be questioning what tone your undertone really is. I thought my veins looked more blue than green but I have brown hair and eyes and I rarely sunburn. I rarely wear yellow, you can’t pay me to wear orange, but I do love a good red. I am also obsessed with black and white but not so much ivory and brown.


Guess I need to underwrite an undertone expert.


Interesting sidebar: cool colors of blue, green, and purple will infuse a sense of calm and peacefulness into a room while warmer reds, oranges, and yellows work to express feelings of welcome and coziness as well as stimulation.





Heavily Self Meditated May 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:52 pm


Benches by Toby Melville of Reuters

“Benches” by Toby Melville/Reuters


How many of you, when you read the above headline for this blog, thought it said “medicated” instead of “meditated?” It’s not surprising but what is surprising is how different the two are and yet how they can often have the same results: better health.


Meditation has been around forever but I am new to it. So new in that I went to an introductory fundamentals class yesterday and it was the first time I’d ever officially meditated. I loved it. And if you can get past all the misconceptions about it, I think you will too.


Stained glass ceilingHow have I discovered this ancient form of relaxation? Long story short, but I had lunch with a friend and one of our long-time mentors a few weeks ago. Come to find out our mentor has opened “The Meditation Bar” and she swears by the practice. Trust me; this is a woman who I would consider the last person to take the time to not only slow down, but to meditate. She is highly accomplished and is a living breathing mover and shaker. She’s likely an avid reader too and stumbled upon Dan Harris’ bestseller, “10% Happier,” which details his life in network TV news, panic attacks, and pressure beyond his control and how meditation helped him. Naturally I picked up the book and am sold.


10 Percent HappierIt didn’t hurt that author Gretchen Rubin of the “Happiness Project,” who I love, is quoted on the cover of “10% Happier.” It may all sound too “crunchy” and “so 1960s,” but as Harris says, he wrote the book to demystify thoughts just like that and to let readers know it is totally doable, regardless of your situation, religious beliefs, or skepticism.


The Meditation Bar calls it “minding your mind.” Officially, meditation is simply a practice of training the mind to promote relaxation; build internal energy; and develop compassion, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. When practiced regularly, it induces a mode of consciousness that helps you acknowledge benefits rather than struggles. Most importantly, it doesn’t replace religion, it enhances it.



Beatles last concert 1969Yes, it was big in the wild and crazy 1960s, when Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi encouraged admirers to “search for the hero inside yourself,” but as much as we may have made fun of the Beatles during their “weird” years, maybe they were onto something.


Even Britain’s “The Independent” is loosening its stiff upper lip, admitting that TM, as its followers call it, is rapidly moving from kooky to mainstream thanks largely to a burgeoning body of scientific research that shows regular meditators can expect to enjoy striking reductions in heart attack, stroke, and early mortality. And, as Harris writes, many think of meditation as a technique just for “bearded swamis, unwashed hippies, and fans of John Tesh music.” (Yes the book is both educational and entertaining!). It’s anything but though.


“Meditation has a PR problem,” Harris admits. “But, if you can get past the cultural baggage, you’ll find that meditation is simply exercise for your brain and in my experience it makes you 10% happier.”


Okay then, what’s not to love? Meditation class, here I come.


Arizona road

In the class, which was led by a wonderful woman named Stacy, I learned that a regular practice of meditation is indeed scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, and will even make you sleep better. A good night’s rest is when our bodies release tons of stress and I’m proud to say that I meditated before going to sleep last night using an app Stacy recommended ((Insight Timer) and I slept like a baby!



Turn down the lights

Turn down the bed

Turn down the voices

Inside my head

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt



The goal of meditation is to lower those voices inside your head. That inner chatter we all have creates all kinds of trouble and keeps us from remaining cool, calm, and collected. Meditation can help bring peace of mind and will enable you to respond to things rather than react to them. Yep, I need that in a big way! This Latin girl has a Latin temper and a quick mind that can snap on a dime! I’m also a great worrier and hyper planner…both of which cause me grief and stress.


A proven technique that literally rewires your brain, meditation uses your senses to ground you and direct you. But, contrary to many a belief, you don’t have to turn your brain “off” to benefit from it. As Stacy so eloquently put it, “Your brain is an instrument of thought and telling it to not have thoughts is like telling your eyes, which are instruments of sight, to not see.” While meditating, you mind will roam but you will learn how to redirect those distractions.


Meditation is not about sleeping either. I was of the belief that you would be somewhat incoherent while meditating, but you are anything but. Surprisingly I have done mediation all my life through prayer. Many of us have.


Holy LandAlthough not a religion per se, all religions have meditation in common. Hindu is probably the one most commonly associated with it and is what many believe started it all, but Christianity is right there with it. Back in the 6th century, Benedictine monks practiced a method of reading the Bible called “Lectio Devino,” and Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila further developed the method, which is still practiced today. Plus, who hasn’t heard of the Holy Rosary or prayer beads? They are both most definitely mediations methods.


And what about Yoga? How many of you enjoy a class of Downward Dog and Warrior 2? I’m right there with you and have come to realize that Yoga is also a form of meditation. In fact, the two are so intertwined that my meditation class ended with a “Namaste.”


If you’re like me, monks and Hindu gurus immediately come to mind, as do their chants. We kinda all do that though, in that we use “mantras,” which are basically the repetition of a significant word or words to help boost concentration. Mantras are done quietly and internally but once they are spoken out loud, they are chants. “Be the ball” in sports. “Thy will be done” in prayer. “3, 2, 1” in dance. All mantras. All common.


Another misconception about meditation is that it will mellow you so much that you become unmotivated and way too chill for today’s fast-moving world. Nope, those who meditate regularly don’t lose their edge but are said to be more likely to come up with new ideas and an increased sense of doing. Much like exercise for the body, this exercise for the mind increases your enthusiasm and clarifies your actions.


As The Meditation Bar explains, you will be happier, more creative, and even healthier through meditation. Happier in that your brain physically changes the more you meditate; healthier in that meditation improves immune function by boosting antibodies, develops a positive mental environment and reduces stress; and more productive in that a calm brain is a creative brain.


Sand circlesWe all strive to “defang the voice in our head,” and we all struggle with inner and outer realities. It’s an never-ending circle of “am I good enough?” doubts. Even Harris, a big-time network TV reporter, admits that meditation helped him balance the image he presented to the world with the complicated murmurs in his head. Been there, done that.


It’s catching on. Executives, athletes, and the U.S. Marines are using meditation to improve focus, curb addictions, and stop being “yanked by their emotions.” The journal “Military Medicine” reported that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars showed a 50 percent reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms after eight weeks of TM.


It’s not a magic pill by any means and takes both practice and patience, but it just may create space in your head so that your anger, intolerance, and frustrations can and will decrease…not go away, but lessen.


I plan to enroll in more classes and to join my husband on his long-time meditation journey, but it will never replace my faith. That’s not what it’s supposed to do. It will simply allow me to experience all my blessings even more vigorously.


So if you want to improve your mindfulness…the art of hearing and listening but not reacting, only responding…give it a shot. Harris vows it will give you a real advantage and maybe even make you nicer! The world certainly needs more of that, right?




Derby Day May 7, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:59 am


Such a busy weekend this week, what with Mother’s Day and the Kentucky Derby. The Derby has forever been on this mother’s Bucket List and sadly it will remain there as I have no plans to attend tomorrow’s race. I wanna do it right though. I wanna wear the hat and sit in the grandstand. I wanna bet on a long shot and drink mint juleps. Not this year, but it’s still fun to think about and fun to write about and what a great Mother’s Day gift it would be! Hint, hint.


Known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby is America’s oldest continuous sporting event and an annual odds on favorite to be a winner.  Held each May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, it is all things southern and all things spectacular.


It’s also packed full of rich customs and traditions, including the mint julep, amazing hats, and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home. In short, it is a true American icon that dates back to 1875.



Colleen Rice, of Louisville, Ky., reads a race program in the paddock area during the 134th Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 3, 2008, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.  (AP Photo/Patti Longmire)


Its story commenced in 1872 when Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark, visited England and its Epsom Derby. He also fraternized with those of the prestigious French Jockey Club, which developed the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps horse race. BTW, that’s why Longchamp bags have a horse insignia. Giddy up, more fashion!


Upon returning to the U.S., Clark made it his goal to develop a stateside race of equal grandeur and organized the Louisville Jockey Club, which to this day maintains “The American Stud Book.” The registry keeps the official tab on not Hollywood hotties but every single Thoroughbred born in the U.S.


On May 17, 1875 the LJC sponsored the very first Kentucky Derby. Aristides won that first race in front of 10,000 spectators. Today more than 160,000 fans will watch the annual “Run for the Roses” live in front of the famed Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.


Why a “derby” though, Well, the term “derby” refers to any horse race restricted to three-year-old horses, either fillies (females) or colts (males). Only Thoroughbreds race in the Kentucky Derby. These are esteemed horses whose lineage traces back to three stallions: the Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk, and Gondolphin Arabian. And what about those odd names? As I mentioned above, they are all registered by the Jockey Club and their names can be no longer than 18 characters. Another interesting tidbit is that no matter when a Thoroughbred is born, its birthday is officially January 1, supposedly making it easier to track their pedigrees. Yes sports fans, this is serious business.





Okay that’s all well and good for those who actually care about the horses, but what about the other “H” word of the Derby: hats?!  Taking in all the various styles and varieties of hats worn by women attendees is of course half the fun. It’s not just a fashion thing either. Wearing a hat to Churchill Downs is said to bring good luck. I’m down!


Both men and women wear hats to the Derby and what type depends on your personal style and where you plan to spend the day. Within the seated areas of Churchill Downs, hats are generally elegant and wide-brimmed but in the Infield, anything goes and they trend more eccentric and outrageous. Still, there are really no rules or limits when it comes to choosing a Derby headpiece. But, keep in mind it is also the chance to express your Southern charm or convey your inner Southern Belle, so keep it tasteful ladies. Clothing-wise, most women wear simple spring dresses so as not to compete with the real star of their outfit: the hat. Since the hat should be the focus of your outfit, there’s also no need for large, statement jewelry. Thing pearls, not bling. And be sure to pack flats as you will be walking a lot!


7645604_G mens

Men also don hats at the Derby, albeit somewhat more subtle and traditional ones. Where men go a little crazy is in their attire. A Derby man is not above wearing pastel-colored pants, tropical colors, busy plaids, bold stripes, fun gingham, and all-things seersucker. On the more traditional side, you’ll see many classic navy blazer, chalk stripe, bowties, and monograms. On foot, it’s all about the loafer…worn sockless.


Hats can be tough to choose though, so just what kind is a safe bet (excuse the pun!)?



The wide brim is an iconic Derby topper that invokes both class and drama and think color, floral accents, and individuality. Fascinators have become a more recent trend, thanks partly to Kate Middleton. The fetching headpieces are smaller and easier to wear but just as chic as their bigger cousins. For men, a fabulous French Fedora is a sure winner, as is a Boater or Skimmer, which tycoon John Jacob Astor IV favored. No ball caps or flat rims please. I’m looking at you sports fans.



Mint Julep


Now that you’re dressed to the nines, it’s time for a Mint Julep or splash of bourbon. No Kentucky Derby is complete without its signature cocktail, which has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. In fact, more than 120,000 of them are served at Churchill Downs during Derby weekend each year…most of them in an heirloom silver cup or souvenir glass.


The origins of the mint julep are a bit murky, but it is known that Kentucky Senator Henry Clay introduced the drink to his Washington, D.C. colleagues at the famous Willard Hotel back in the 1800s. In yet another twist, it’s thought that the straw was invented thanks to the Mint Julep because such huge sprays of mint were served at the tops of the drinks that you couldn’t really drink one. The straw fixed that! According to the Derby museum, the yummy sweet cocktail became Churchill Down’s signature drink in 1938 when they sold for 75 cents. Today that wouldn’t buy you a mint sprig that comes in one.


Why “julep?” Historians trace the word back to an Arabic drink called a “julab,” which was made with water and rose petals. Mediterranean drinkers replaced the rose petals with mint and used the cocktail to alleviate stomach problems. Although today a julep is considered a solid southern bourbon institution, amazingly the first mint juleps were made with rye whiskey or rum, not bourbon. Well I do declare!





Speaking of roses, they will be regally on display in the stands and on the track at Churchill Downs. Each losing participant in the Derby gives a fresh bouquet to the winner who will also be draped in a satin garland of more than 400 red “Freedom Roses” and will receive 60 long-stemmed roses wrapped in 10 yards of ribbon. “The Run for the Roses” is indeed just that.


Roses and the Derby go way back. At one time, all women attending the swanky Louisville Derby Party were given a fragrant bloom, which became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904.





But back to the sports angle, which after all, is what the Kentucky Derby really is. It’s not the “most exciting two minutes of fashion,” although it probably could be the “most exciting two days of hat fashion!” It’s a sporting event that has morphed into a social affair. You know because….it’s fun!


The first of what is considered the “Triple Crown” of horse races, the Kentucky Derby is also the shortest of the three races at just 1 ¼ miles…hence the most exciting two minutes! To win the coveted Triple Crown, a horse must win the Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. This is no easy task, with only 12 Triple Crown winners in the event’s long and storied history.


Last year American Pharoah stole the show and America’s hearts by winning the first Triple Crown since Affirmed did so 1978. That’s nearly 40 years! It was exciting. It was historic.


Country music trio Lady Antebellum is set to sing the National Anthem tomorrow at around 5 p.m. but the real singing highlight will be when 160,000 fans join the University of Louisville marching band to croon “My Old Kentucky Home” at around 6:30 p.m. during the horse parade, a tradition that started in 1921. Right after that, the horses run and another quest for the Triple Crown begins.


Me in hat

Someday I will be there. I even have the hat for it. Someday. You can bet on it.


Finding My Moai May 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:55 am

Brittany Fuson squad


Last week my dear college friend Ann texted me and the other three women who make up my annual college girls trip travelling buddies. The five of us have been friends for more than 30 years and they mean the world to me. We all live in different cities and states so I deeply cherish whenever I get to see them. What Ann texted made me smile.


K and M


It looked like something from a daily devotional she might use and was titled “Find your moai. Her personal message with it was, “how ironic…there are five of us.” You see, a “moai” is a group of five friends committed to one another for life. The word is Japanese for “meeting for a common purpose” and originated in Okinawa, Japan. There, community support groups provide social, financial, health, and spiritual care and are considered one of the leading factors of the famously long lifespans Okinawans enjoy. In fact, the region has one of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. Hello moai!


The info in Ann’s message went on to suggest one “identify the people in your life who make you feel most valued and supported and invest the majority of your energy in those relationships.” Even though I see these women once, maybe two or three times a year if I’m lucky, I get it. They (along with others) are my moai and moi feels blessed to have them.



More Than Sushi

It seems I’ve had a lot of Japanese influences in my life lately.


I recently blogged about the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and its Japanese method of decluttering and organizing and how it’s changed my current “I’m moving” situation.


I’ve also been following my two nieces Monica and Tessa as they travel around Japan to see my Japanese nephew-in-law Takeshi’s family and show Tessa and Takeshi’s new son his dad’s homeland. Monica has posted lots of interesting observations, the kind I just LOVE, and I thought I’d share some…


  • They don’t drink soda in Japan.
  • Rice is served with every meal.
  • There are no single-story homes and all houses have clothes lines because dryers are extremely rare.
  • You give up your seat IMMEDIATELY for an elder, disabled person, or pregnant woman on a bus or train. Even an elderly person gives up a seat for a “more” elderly person.
  • You stand on the left side of an escalator unless you are passing.
  • Everyone is thin!
  • Japanese don’t wear sunglasses outside. (what?!)
  • You need to get used to constantly taking your shoes on and off everywhere you go.
  • Taxi cabs are spotless. Spotless windows. Spotless seats. They smell fresh and drivers are “dressed to the nines.” Doors also open automatically for you when entering and exting a cab.
  • Bus drivers wear masks and whisper where they are going so as not to awaken sleeping passengers.
  • There are almost no public trash cans to be had. One hangs onto their trash until one is found.
  • No one says “Bless you” when you sneeze.
  • Public bathrooms are equipped with buttons on the wall that make the sound of running water when you push them to make your toileting experience and those next to you more discreet.


Sake_in_Gift_Exchange_CultureFor Goodness Sake

Something else interesting that I learned long ago is that you never pour your own Sake. It is part of a Japanese etiquette rule called “o-shaku.” In general, it is considered much more polite to pour Sake for others but never directly for yourself, resulting in an atmosphere of social interaction and common courtesy. No worries though, as the small Sake cups traditionally used in Japan allow for everyone to have the opportunity to pour and receive. When receiving Sake, lift your cup off the table, hold it with two hands, and take a sip before setting it back down. What’s not to love about this tradition?!


All of these endearing customs demonstrate how deeply connected and rooted Sake is to Japanese culture. Known as the “drink of Gods” in Japan, Sake has ancient and important ties to religious ceremonies, traditions, and beliefs. It is said that if you get to know Sake, you get to know Japan.


All this talk about Japan got me thinking; I wonder what my dad would think of all this. A United States Navy vet, he fought in WWII and the Japanese were enemies of America. The mere mention of Pearl Harbor may have made him cringe, but I have no doubt he would be so proud of my niece and would love her husband. Still, how times have changed, right? Change is good.


Being the information nut that I am, I also researched just a tad about the “Land of the Rising Sun.” I just can’t help myself!



Head East

The name “Japan” is actually the English word for the country. The Japanese names are Nippon and Nihon, both of which mean “the sun’s origin.” Japan is said to see the first Earth’s sunrise every day and the terminology also refers to the island nation’s position from China.


Japanese history and culture is connected to China also in its system of writing called Kanji, which means Chinese letter or character. Invented by the Chinese and adopted by Japan in the 6th Century, Kanji characters convey meaning not just sound and were originally drawn as pictures from nature. There are said to be more than 5,000 Kanji and by their ninth birthday, Japanese students are required to know nearly 2,000 of them. The first picture or Kanji or Japan means “sun” and the second one means “base or origin,” hence “the land of the rising sun!” The Japanese flag also depicts this image, with the red circle in the middle symbolizes the sun as well as “brightness” and “warmth,” while the white background signifies honesty and purity.


I don’t know about you, but I just love learning these types of things. I’m hoping I haven’t gotten any of it wrong but am counting on my niece to correct me if I have. Tessa lived and worked in Japan for many years, met her husband there, and was there during the 2011 tsunami.  I would love to know more and needless to say, I know just who to ask!


So, sayounara! Oh wait, that’s not correct. Believe it or not, Japanese people don’t walk around saying what we commonly think of as “goodbye” in Japanese. That’s because “sayounara” has a strong sense of finality and is only used when you think you might not see that person again or at least for a very long time. So at the risk of being disrespectful or just wrong, I’ll end by saying “thank you for reading this blog today,” so how about just “arigatou.” I’m pretty sure that means “thank you” in Japanese!





Parting Was Such Sweet Sorrow May 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:12 pm



William Shakespeare. The mere mention of the English poet, playwright, and actor conjures up images of memorable plays or not-so-memorable English Lit reading assignments. I was never a huge Shakespeare lover but I do respect and appreciate his legacy. It’s a legacy that 400 years ago today came to an end with Mr. Shakespeare’s death on May 3, 1616.


Love him or hate his work, William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest English language writer and dramatist and is considered England’s national poet. Just a few of his “greatest hits” include “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Merchant of Venice,” and “Taming of the Shrew.”


Whether you’ve read them or not or whether you’ve seen them performed, you know of them. You know Juliet dies and you know both Hamlet and Macbeth were kings. But, did you know you owe much of what you say to William Shakespeare? Consider this:



Full circle? Yep.

Piece of work? Yeppers.

Good riddance? Check.

Love is blind? Check and double check.

Amazing, right? No wonder his legend didn’t vanish into thin air following his death. Oh wait, that’s one of his lines too.


Famous and amazing yes, but William Shakespeare is also somewhat of a mystery.


Though no birth records exist, notes that church records indicate a William Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. Most scholars observe April 23, 1564 as his birthday, allowing for the three traditional days between birth and baptism. After that, very few records exist of his childhood and virtually none about his education. Legendary writer of many a student’s books and yet his own education is unknown? Cue the mystery.


That’s right. Although works by William Shakespeare are known throughout the world and have been performed on every corner of the globe for more than 400 years, his personal history has shadowy origins. In fact, his story could easily be one of his productions!


Other than church and court records, the only historical sources historians have to work with are his works. Maybe that’s how he wanted it to be.




What is known is that he was the third child of leather merchant John Shakespeare and his wife Mary Arden, a local heiress. Young William had two older sisters and three younger brothers. When he was 18-years-old he married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway and they later had three children, including twins. Now is where his life really gets cryptic.


Following the birth of the twins, there are seven years of Shakespeare’s life that are called the “lost years,” as no records exist of him or his family. Speculation varies as to what happened during this period and some even question whether William Shakespeare really existed.


By the early 1590s however, documents show a William Shakespeare was managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company in London, and that he was indeed earning a living as an actor and playwright. He may have even produced some plays during this time.


The years that followed were some of his most successful, as 15 of his 37 plays were published; earning him enough money to purchase the second largest house in Stratford called New House. Soon after, Shakespeare and his partners built their own theatre on the banks of London’s famed Thames River. The rest as they say is history. Literally.




Even in his writing though, Shakespeare danced to a beat all his own. His early plays were written in the conventional style of the day but incorporated elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases that didn’t always align naturally with the story’s plot or characters. Shakespeare was not only very talented but very innovative as well. Even with little or no education, he learned to adapt the traditional writing style of the times while creating his own free-flowing technique.


His writings started as historical ones, with the exception of “Romeo and Juliet.” He then penned what might be considered a comedy today, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as well as the romantic “Merchant of Venice” and witty “Much Ado About Nothing.” He turned charmer with “As You Like It” but then focused on tragedy with “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” “Othello,” and “Macbeth.”


Shakespeare’s works are studied and performed worldwide on a regular basis, but his reputation as a dramatic genius wasn’t recognized until the 19th century. Perhaps, as writes, the genius of Shakespeare’s characters and plots are that they present real human beings in a wide range of emotions and conflicts; characters who also transcend their Elizabethan English origins. He was an original who lived by his own words: “To thine own self be true.”


Well-played Mr. Shakespeare. Well-played.