Beyond Words

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

The Halfway Point March 26, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:00 pm

Well, we’re officially halfway through Lent. How are you doing with your Lenten sacrifices? Have they gone wayward much like New Year’s Resolutions do, or are you still giving up and giving more?


Why do we give up things during Lent?


Giving up things we like is said to help us realize that the pleasures of this life are not what we live for. We are traditionally encouraged to abstain from contraptions and trappings that take our attention away from God and anything that distances us from God.


Most followers also abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent and the reasons why vary. Some say it’s a way of following the apostles in saying no to our wants in order to say yes to Jesus. Abstinence from meat also reminds us that Christ offered his own flesh and blood for us on the cross. And yet another tradition holds that years ago only the very wealthy could afford meat and fish was a poor man’s meal. By choosing fish over meat during Lent, we are reminded of that Jesus lived a very simple life and preached humility.


The purpose of fasting is also to open up space inside of us to make room for the Holy Spirit to work. Spiritual writers use the analogy of a stringed instrument in that unless the body of a cello is empty, it cannot produce beautiful music.


In the middle ages, meat, eggs, and milk were forbidden during Lent. That’s one of the reasons we celebrate with Easter eggs. After 40 days of having no eggs, they became part of Easter morning breakfast traditions. Eggs are also symbols of new life, which is what we all received on Easter Sunday.


In addition to fasting, we are asked to offer up prayers and almsgiving. Prayer is said to be our relationship with God, almsgiving is our relationship with others, and fasting is our relationship with ourselves.


So why 40 days?


You really need look no further than the bible for the answer, as 40 is a very significant number throughout scripture. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai, the Great Flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights, the Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years, and Jesus spent 40 days in the garden praying and preparing for God’s plan.


If you look even closer at all of those, one thing sticks out: they all involve pain and struggle. Our Lenten sacrifices shouldn’t give us pain, but they should remind us that God uses suffering to bring us closer to Him.


There’s something else that takes 40 days to complete: birth. When a pregnant woman reaches her 40th week, she is considered full term. Ironic? Probably not.


Lent hasn’t always been 40 days long however. In early times, the fasting time leading up to Easter was as short as two days but got gradually longer and longer and by the 4th century, it officially began six weeks before Easter. Fasting is not required on Sundays though, so Ash Wednesday and the three days following it were added, giving us today’s 40 days of Lent.


Okay, but why is it called Lent?


The English word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “Lencten” meaning “spring.” It is also derived from the German word “Lenzin,” which means “long” as in the lengthening of days as spring approaches. It can also be looked at as a time during which we can work on lengthening the time we spend in prayer and charity.


Lent is practiced all over the world, so naturally there is a word for it in almost every language. Most of those words have something to do with the number 40. In Italian it is “quaresima” and derived from the Italian word for 40, quaranta. Same with Spanish, where is it “cuaresma” and similar to “cuarenta, the Spanish word for 40. In French they call it “careme,” which is similar to “quarante,” the French word for 40.



Lent is a time to renew your mind, body, and spirit. It’s also a time to grow in your faith and prayer life. And, it’s not just a Catholic thing. Observed in Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Eastern Orthodox faiths, Lent officially began on Ash Wednesday and will end on Holy Thursday, March 13.


There’s still time to make those amends and find that spirituality. In reality though, there is always time for them. Lent simply reminds us of the importance of doing so but if you’re like me, a timetable and deadline are pretty much all I need to succeed at something. And the way I look at it, if Moses, Noah, and Jesus could all do it, so can I.


Green With Envy March 17, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:30 pm

Happy Friday and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! We are all Irish today and there’s a good chance you are wearing something green as you read this. Forever connected with Ireland, Patrick was a gentle and humble man who was actually born in Scotland. Ordained a bishop, he was sent to Ireland to preach the gospel and used the shamrock to teach people about the Trinity. The simple, green plant grows abundantly in Ireland so he cleverly used its three separate parts to explain the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Soon after hearing Patrick’s message, kings and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity and Catholicism.


Ireland was sold, and today we all are just a wee bit Irish, but did you know there are more Irish people in the U.S. than in all of Ireland? An estimated 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry but the population of Ireland in just over 4 million! St. Patrick is said to be buried in Down Cathedral in the County of Down in Ireland, and ironically we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on the day he died.


So now you know the story behind the saint, the holiday, and why you are wearing green today. Green is definitely tied to St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also tied to jealousy. You know it, you’ve heard it: “green with envy.” That my lads, is nothing to celebrate.



Envy can cause major problems and even wars. It can make us physically ill and it wreaks havoc in relationships. The strain it puts on us brings out the worst in us. Living in a state of “green with envy” leads to saying mean things to others, thinking malicious things about others, and maybe even acting out negatively toward others. In a word, it’s bad.


Still, most of us struggle with envy at one time or another. We envy someone else’s possessions, successes, and life in general. Their kids are smarter, their house is bigger, their job is better. The many faces of jealousy come in the way of wanting something we don’t have such as money, power, beauty, or even fame and prestige. But all of those begrudging thoughts get us nowhere and ultimately make us feel blue.



You see, regardless of how much we covet what others have and strive to top them, there will always, always be someone better than you in some way. Always. And, as Michael Dell so eloquently said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a new room.”


That’s why the constant comparing of your life to someone else’s results only in you feeling inadequate. The only thing comparisons do is point out what you lack and how you don’t measure up. In your mind that is.



I’m as guilty as anyone about doing this. I think it’s human nature to do so and especially if you’re a Type A personality like me. I live for perfection and everything in its place. If and when I do something, I give it my all and truth be told, I secretly hope someone notices and appreciates my efforts. Interestingly, I’m not super competitive and try my best to be happy with what I have. Where I stray is home décor. I know. It sounds crazy and I love my home, but I’m forever finding new ways to decorate and embellish. I might also occasionally stray to the evil side of envy when it comes to my family. Don’t we all?


So, how can we, in today’s “bigger and better” world, avoid that pukey shade of green with envy? One way is, when you feel envy rearing its ugly head, sit back and honestly ask yourself, “What am I jealous of?” “Who am I jealous of?” “How do I compare myself to others?” “Why do I do this?” Also, keep in mind that those people in the gated mansions have problems and struggles just like the rest of us…they just deal with them surrounded by luxury. But remind yourself of one of life’s most reliable rules: money does not buy happiness. With more money comes more pressure and with fame and power comes more responsibility.


At the same time, think of ways you can be like those you are jealous of. That friend who has the perfect body? She likely works out and eats right. Get off the couch, put down the ice cream, and just do it. Those material things you think you need so bad? Maybe they were earned by hard work and saving money. Still, there are some ways you just won’t have what they have, be it wealth or health, but keep in mind there are people out there praying for what you do have and what you maybe aren’t appreciating.



That’s when you should make a list of all you are thankful for and proud of, all of your accomplishments, and all the things going right in your life. Instead of being envious and jealous, be grateful and confident. In doing so I think you’ll find all those Joneses you are trying to keep up with are probably no better off than the Smiths. Hey, I’m a Smith! Time for me to keep up only with who I am and what I’m blessed with.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all and may you reap the blessings of his prayer.



Hashing Out Hashtags March 7, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:44 am


Did you know that if a nation existed whose citizens were only Selena Gomez Instagram followers it would be the 16th biggest country in the world, with a larger population than Germany or France? What? That’s just cray-cray!


If the first thing you thought after reading the above paragraph is “Who’s Selena Gomez” or “What’s a follower,” you can stop reading right now and go back to your flip phone. If you know just who or what I’m talking about, hashtag read on!


As the rest of us know, or maybe don’t know but are interested in knowing, “followers” are those who are connected with you via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram. They “follow” everything you say and post. Ms. Gomez has more than 100 million of them, more than any other Instagram account holder. Take that Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and anyone with the last name Kardashian or Jenner. These diehards follow the singer’s every word, every photo, and every hashtag.


Hash what?


Hashtag. You know, that little tic-tac-toe or pound sign you see everywhere and right in front of words on social media? Well, it’s called a hashtag, it’s all the rage, and it’s got rules. Yep, there are right ways and wrong ways of using hashtags and I’m here to enlighten you, my millions of readers. Yeah right, Carla. #dreamon.


So, what are hashtags and how should you be using them? Wisely and carefully.


Hashtags are basically words or phrases used primarily in Twitter and Instagram posts as ways of tagging those posts to similar topics posted by others and creating searchable links to find them. For example, you post a photo of your new Golden Retriever puppy and include #goldenretrievers in the post. Well, if your account is public, your post will join the posts of others who also included #goldenretrievers in their post. And, if one of your followers clicks on that hashtag, they will be directed to a page full of photos that mention the identical subject. At the same time, hashtags allow you to easily find content that you’re looking for en masse. Some people find this cyberspace way of connecting with and engaging with others who have common interests a very exciting discovery mode.


Pretty much created by Twitter, the hashtag was designed to organize posted content by topic and keywords. This not only allows fans to find similar subject matter all in one place, it allows brands to track and measure their reach. The idea proved so popular that other platforms are now hashtag homes. Many brands and bloggers live and die by them. One place they are extremely commonplace is Instagram. Everyone hashtags their posts, but are we hashtagging the right way?


I know of what I write because I’m as guilty as the next poster in hashtagging perhaps incorrectly. Trust me, my millennial daughter loves to remind me that I don’t have to hashtag everything. Let’s remember that a hashtag’s main purpose is to group your post with similar posts. They are not ways for you to be cutesy or witty, although isn’t it fun to do so? Hee-hee.


Instagram Instances

Let’s focus on Instagram, a platform I’m familiar and comfortable with. Just like Facebook and Twitter, you have a profile and a news feed and people can follow you and like your posts. Unlike Facebook, you can only access Instagram from a smart phone or compatible tablet. The emphasis of Instagram is sharing only photos (and short videos) and your feed consists only of photos you post and the short comments you attach with them.


Instagram was created as a way of posting photographs mostly by companies and bloggers. A designer might post a photo of a dining room they’ve staged and hashtag #diningroom, #tabledecor and #dining rugs. An exercise studio might post photos of yoga poses and tag #warriortwo, #downwarddog, and #childspose. Followers can then click on those hashtags and see similar posts. That’s how it’s supposed to work. As with anything though, it has literally gone viral and now everyone and anyone has taken it to new levels.


If you log onto Instagram right now, you’ll see posts by celebs and friends, all bearing hashtags ranging from #proudmom to #lovemydog to #feeltheburn. You’ll also see some like #roadtripwiththefam and #annismybestfriend. You might also run across #just kidding instead of simple “just kidding” sans any hashtag. Some of those are okay, some not so much.


If you’re wondering how to do Instagram hashtags in a good way, you’ll notice a big difference in tags your friends include and tags professionals include. Check out this post by Heather Scott Home & Design. It’s perfection.



Now check out my recent post, which includes tags that are more clever and less product or service centered.



When I post something, I tend to either post a photo I took and really like or some interesting words. I love words and cannot get enough of thought provoking quotes or sayings. I also think of my Instagram page as an extension of my blog in some ways. I will always post a photo from a recent blog and tag my blog site in it as well as hints as to what the blog is about. Do I need to be on Instagram? Probably not. I don’t have a particular or highly sought after brand; I simply like photographs, like this one I recently posted with more straightforward tags:



I am not alone. Through smart phones, everyone is a photographer. You really can’t eat a meal or attend an event without someone taking a photo. As for the rich and famous, don’t let their photos fool you. They are most likely taken by someone whose job it is to capture their boss in the best light and then post it with perfectly worded captions. Some famous people post their own stuff; many do not.


When a photo is posted, it probably needs explaining and maybe in a hashtag. The hashtag is a major player in popular culture and is increasingly vital to the way we communicate socially. The word can be found in both the Oxford dictionary and the Scrabble Dictionary. Marketing-wise, every brand and company is on board, with some like Breathe Right nose strips actually incorporating many hashtag mentions in a clever TV ad. And who hasn’t seen Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake mockingly act out the overuse of hashtags? #veryclever #veryfunny.


It’s interesting to note that the word Instagram was chosen as a way of combining “instant camera” with “telegram.” Although it’s only been around since 2010, the free mobile app now has more than 600 million active users and was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for approximately $1 billion. It’s estimated that around 60 photos are uploaded every second and the total number of pictures uploaded now exceeds 1 billion. Holy selfie shots!


Part of the attraction is the many filters Instagram allows users to, well, use. You can tweak and edit your photo with more than 20 filters that instantly add brightness, contrast, and overall attractiveness. Ironically, if you don’t use a filter on a photo you post, you hashtag #no filter.



Hashtag Do’s and Don’ts

So how should you use hashtags? Number one, the fewer the better and the shorter the better. Remember, the intent of a hashtag is to get your content shared on sites with similar content. If a follower can neither easily read or remember your tag, your battle is lost before it even began.


Secondly, your page must be public in order for your hashtags to appear on corresponding hashtag pages.


It’s also important to know that you can include numbers in a hashtag, but not symbols like dollar signs. Spaces, punctuation, and emojis are also forbidden by the hashtag Gods. Finally, you can only tag your own posts, not anyone else’s.


Try not to use hashtags to voice your opinion. If you post a photo of the White House during your visit to D.C., appropriate hashtags might be #whitehouse, #washingtondc, or even #amercia, but maybe not #ilovetrump. Just saying.


Reserve the use of hashtags to Twitter and Instagram. Facebook is really not the place for them because the algorithms it uses prioritizes in a way that codes a long list of hashtags as too sales pitchy and they will likely be deemed as spam. If you must hashtag on Facebook, limit the number to no more than two. The same could almost also be said for Instagram and Twitter. Remember, less is more. Too many hashtags could make you come across as desperate.


Don’t be vague with your hashtags. The more specific you can be, the more targeted your audience will be. #vancouverhotels will be much more effective for a hotel chain than just #vancouver.


If you have a brand, by all means hashtag the actual brand name, but also what the brand is about. A company that leases condos on the coast of Florida would be smart to hashtag the company name, but also #floridabeachliving and #floridarentals.


In addition to the pound sign preceding tags, you might see an @, which is considered a reference to another person or company. If selected, you will be directed to that site. For example, if I put @espn on a post, you click on it and will go straight to ESPN’s Instagram page. You can also put the @ in front of your friend’s name to make sure they see that post. If you copy a post you liked, it’s common courtesy to either hashtag the original poster or include a “regramjanedoe” tag.


Hashtag things like cities, brands, trades, and subject matters like weddings and dog breeds. And remember, short and sweet and focus on specifics. Your hashtag is supposed to make finding your content easier, not harder. You want your tag to add content to your post, not convolute it.


Still, stay personal and stay on point. Even though machines and computers will put your post where you maybe want it to go, don’t you also want to do that yourself? Your posts should in a way, speak for themselves and not rely on hashtags to do all the work for you. That would just be #lazy and #uncreative.


If you just want to have fun with your Instagram page and hashtags, do. No one is saying you can’t. In fact, use hashtags to personalize your post by expressing feelings about the photo, explaining the image, and even being clever or funny. Rumor has it that posts with hashtags get more “likes” and isn’t that really what life is all about?