Beyond Words

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

Take A Stand June 29, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:08 am



If you drive to work, sit at work, then go home and sit at your computer or in front of the TV, listen up.


And, even if you do all of the above but squeeze in exercise, still listen up. And stand up.


Why? Because 10 years’ worth of studies show that sitting is really, really bad for us. It gives us back problems, leads to obesity, increases the risk of heart disease, results in diabetes because idle muscles encourage the pancreas to produce more insulin, and it increases the amount of fluid that accumulates in our legs leading to everything from swollen ankles to varicose veins to dangerous blood clots. Medical experts also attribute the recent increase of osteoporosis to the lack of activity and the constant craning of your neck in front of a computer strains the cervical vertebrae and can lead to permanent imbalances. If all of that isn’t bad enough, there’s “sedentary death syndrome,” defined as death caused by extreme inactivity and poor nutrition.


Do I have your attention yet?


If you don’t believe me, listen to Tom Rath, author of “Eat, Move, Sleep.” After exhaustive research on the subject, he concluded that inactivity is so dangerous that sitting more than six hours a day will greatly increase your risk of an early death. Perhaps most shocking is that inactivity now kills more people than smoking, making it what many are calling “the new smoking” and the most underrated health-threat of our time.


So there’s that.


Think about it. Most of us go from our bed to our car to our office or school and then back to our car before calling it a night as we watch TV in our chair. Oh, we might also take some time to get on our computers…all while sitting in a chair. That is a whole lot of sitting!


Cue the researchers who find many of us are either lying down or sitting 20 hours per day, leaving a measly four hours for activity. We are literally living with a stalled metabolic rate that is similar to an anesthetized patient for more than 80 percent of our day.


Studying our inactivity is part of the fast-growing field called “inactivity physiology.” Google it and you’ll see lots comes up. Basically defined as the study of how lifestyle causes disease and that too much sitting has very potent effects on the body contributing to the most common diseases, inactive physiology was pioneered by Marc Hamilton who stresses that “too little exercise” is not the same as “too much sitting.” His studies have found that physical inactivity can impair basic but key body functions that regulate our fat and cholesterol metabolism and that this isn’t reversed by exercise. Even to all of you who work out daily, prolonged sitting can still increase your long-term risk of illness and even death.


So, what can we do? In short, stand up!


Research shows that standing for at least two hours a day can lower cholesterol as well as the sugar and fat levels in your blood. Your goal should be to stand as many hours a day as you sit.


Corporate America is listening and two trends have emerged: treadmill desks and standing desks. You’ve probably seen them in movies and at your own place of work and they are working.



Also called walk stations, treadmill desks are basically just that: treadmills attached to or in front of desks. Instead of sitting in a chair while working, you’re moving at an average speed of 1-2 mph, which is fast enough to get your heart rate up, double your metabolic rate, and improve blood sugar levels but slow enough so you can type, read, and talk on the phone comfortably. They are proving great ways to get physical activity in while doing your job.


Standing desks are also gaining popularity. Instead of sitting in front of your desk you stand, meaning your leg muscles are constantly engaged, which helps improve the bloodstream while eliminating lower back and neck pain. These are proving even better for you than all those expensive ergonomically correct desk chairs that were once all the rage.


If you must sit at your desk, consider doing so on a giant exercise ball. Yep, the big inflatable and fun balls will help improve your posture, keep you somewhat moving and not static because you have to balance on them, and they also strengthen your core, your legs, and your back muscles. Balls are also being experimented with in schools too with desk chairs being replaced by them.


It’s all about productivity and health costs at the corporate level and it’s really pretty simple. Healthy employees are more productive and cost the bottom line less in insurance and health care costs. Oh to have invested in treadmill desk manufacturers, as sales have dramatically increased thanks to companies like Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, United Health Care, the Mayo Clinic, and even the FBI buying walk stations in bulk.


Employees are happy too. Most love knowing they are getting in some physical activity while in the office and credit their new office furniture with helping them think more clearly and feel more productive.


If there is no getting around sitting at a desk or anywhere for extended periods of time, at the very least take regular breaks to stretch and walk around. Do a “walk and talk” phone call or just walk the stairs every now and then.


So all you couch potatoes out there, it’s time you get up, stand up, and move around. Don’t take a seat, take a stand!




It’s Like Pulling Teeth June 20, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:37 pm


It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I hate going to the dentist. Like with a capital H. I hate the sounds. I hate even the softest of cleanings. I hate those little cardboard things you bite down on for X-rays. And I hate the gum probe and the pick they use as they tap the top of a tooth and ask, “does that hurt?” Yes it hurts so please stop!


I am so insanely afraid of and dread any dental procedure that I’m on record as saying I’d rather have my “annual” exam or even a colonoscopy than go to the dentist. Much like taking your car into a mechanic, it just seems like you go in for a cleaning and you leave needing a crown, root canal, and EMS for gum recession. Trouble is, when you avoid the dentist like I do, you have longer and more painful visits when you do go and may indeed need some or all of those. Raising my hand.


I’ve put off and avoided my twice-a-year cleanings for a couple of years now but finally bit the bullet last week. As one might expect, it was not good news. I need “deep” cleaning, a crown, laser something or other, and a host of preventative procedures and peccadilloes. So, I was back at the dentist today for appointment #1 of two this week but guess what? I didn’t want the appointment to end! Because…gas!


Yep, the ole nitrous oxide filled my nose and I couldn’t give a flip about any scraping, poking, or awful noises. I also had my phone’s ITunes in my ears (note to all: dentists no longer supply those old school headphones so take your earbuds) so hearing Randy Rogers, Fleetwood Mac, and even a little Peaches and Herb helped ease my pain and anxiety even more. It also got me thinking about why the ‘60s were what they were considering the prevalent mix of music and drugs. Laying back in that chair I was totally in “the age of Aquarius” and had complete“peace and understanding” as the hygienist poked and prodded and told me when to “close” so all that spittle could be sucked out of my mouth.



It’s all so very glamorous, isn’t it? I had a mask over my nose (for all that yummy gas!), sunglasses on, earbuds in, and drool going who knows where. All the while though I was picking out homes on “House Hunters” and watching Chip and Joanna fix one up and thought in my gas-filled head, “they sure make Waco look nice, don’t they?!”


In between all of this I remember my dentist, cute little thing that she is, telling me she lives in my neighborhood and jogged past my house the other day. What? You mean you can deliver gas to me? If only.


I do love this new dentist though. I’ve never had a female dentist and specifically picked her for that reason. Boy am I glad I did. She’s as cute as a button and young enough to be my daughter, but she is very thorough and personable. I also love my hygienist. They seem to get along great but I couldn’t help but think what different lives they live even though they are probably about the same age. Young Dr. Cutie Pie lives in the “old” section of our neighborhood in a ginormous house with her three young sons and husband while Sweet Honey of a Hygienist is a single mom of two beautiful girls. Me? I fall somewhere between them and can relate to both. I love that about life. And nitrous oxide.



I’m following doctor’s orders and bought an electric toothbrush and water pick and vow to get semiannual cleanings from now on. I’m not loving the toothbrush just yet though, as it kinda reminds me of some of the tools used when you visit the dentist. And the water pick? Well, let’s just say my clothing and bathroom mirrors have gotten “flossed” almost as much as my teeth. Guess they both take some getting used to. I’ll be patient and a good patient though because as Dr. Seuss once said, “Teeth are always in style.”


Now, I’m back home with a droopy mouth, pain-filled cheek, and no gas. But I’m a little excited, as I get to do it all again on Thursday for a crown! Yippee!  Gas her up!





When Humility Comes Knocking June 18, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:01 pm


Humble. It’s not a word often encouraged in today’s dog-eat-dog world.


Humility. A trait that is sometimes considered a weakness.


Humiliating. Nothing anyone wants to experience.


Humility is defined as a state of being humble, lowering onself in relation to others, being free of arrogance and pride, and having a modest opinion of yourself. Doesn’t sound so bad after all, does it?


In fact, meekness is not a weakness; it’s a strength.


So, we are encouraged to have humility and be humble and yet experiencing a humiliating experience is not something we long for. Right?


I experienced all three this past week.


I was dealt a humiliating blow that reminded me about the power of humility. As is often the case, the person who humiliated me is anything but humble. News flash mister: arrogance doesn’t earn respect. Just sayin.


Don’t get me wrong, I own it, I failed, and I acknowledge my fallibility. I also fully recognize that everyone, including me, needs to be subjected to disapproval every now and then, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Constructive criticism is just that: constructive. Mean and insulting commentary is just that: mean.


No one likes to be criticized, especially on something they hold dear to their heart and something they pride themselves on. But, you listen and you learn. Sometimes you learn how to improve the very thing you were criticized about, sometimes you learn that the spoken words say more about who spoke them than they do about you, and sometimes you learn to just move on. In my case, I’ve done the first two. It’s the last one I’m having trouble with.


How do you move on when something you have worked so hard on is deemed as “disappointing” and just not up to par? Yep, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Maybe all those t-shirts and signs at OU when I was a student that said “It’s hard to be humble when you’re a Sooner” have come back to bite me in the butt. Maybe I’m overreacting. I’m super good at that. Maybe the mean and demeaning words that I keep repeating in my head were somewhat accurate and will ultimately prove beneficial. In a way, they already have been. But still, what self-respecting person gets off on talking like that to someone who’s trying to help them? I was caught off guard and am still both shocked and disappointed.


I think the fact that the words were so unkind and even a bit contradictory to previous communications is what bothers me more than what they were actually conveying. Criticize me all you want, just do so in a professional and respectful manner. I’ve been doing this a long time. I can take it. I promise. What I can’t take is an attitude of superiority. That’s when all these years of doing this tell me, you don’t deserve this and you don’t need this.


In addition to all of that, I’ve learned to go with your gut.


When you have hesitations about something, don’t ignore them. Frankly my dear, it’s your intuition and you should give a damn. Called your internal radar for a reason, it’s also one of the most powerful tools you have when it comes to making decisions. Surprisingly as I’ve gotten older, I have trouble with this. As firmly as I hold my beliefs, I labor over making a decision sometimes. I overthink things, overanalyze things, and can somehow be convinced of things I’m not 100 percent sure of. Not anymore though. No mas. From now on my gut will be my go-to.


Not doing this caused the self-doubts I’m thinking and the brokenness I’m feeling. But it also brings to mind how often we are called to be humble in the bible. God rewards humility with grace. He instructs us in 1 Peter 5:5 to “clothe ourselves with humility” and tells us in Matthew 23:13 that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  On top of that, two of the Virtues call for meekness and humility, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit include meekness, and one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is the Gift of Piety.


This whole thing also reminds me of the centuries-old Japanese art of mending broken pottery called “kintsugi.” When a piece is broken, gold dust is mixed with resin to fix the cracks and make it whole again. I love that instead of trying to hide the breaks, the process makes something beautiful out of what was once broken. That’s my plan for this week. Focus on healing not hiding; growing not grumbling. I am humbled to do so.





It’s In The Bag June 16, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:58 am

“Shopaholics” by Stephanie Jimenez


My daughter is awaiting a bonus check from work in the next month or so and I was surprised to hear she is considering buying herself an “it” bag with part of it. This is the girl who loves to save her money, not spend it.  I love that she’s thinking it all through and thinking of it as an investment, which in essence it will be.



The apple didn’t fall far from the tree as her momma is a handbag girl too. I don’t have a lot of bags, but some of the ones I have I cherish. My most cherished one? A Valentino “Rockstud” crossbody I bought in the Valentino store on the famed Via dei Condotti on our mother-daughter trip to Rome. For the record, daughter got a Prada.



Valentino, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, Celine, Saint Laurent. All handbag heaven. But not every one can afford a top-of-the-line handbag so let’s look at just a few of them and use them for either shopping tips or inspiration for more affordable models. One thing I’m adamant about: stay away from fakes and cheap knock-offs. It is a seedy industry and no bag is worth supporting what the money goes to. You’re better off buying a nice bag at Target then one from an overseas trader.



Bringing Home a Birkin

If money is no object, probably the most coveted bag of all is the Hermes “Birkin.” You’ve seen the structured bag on the arms of everyone from Martha Stewart on her way to court, Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City,” and on every Hollywood celeb out there. Personally I’m not a big fan because I think many buy one not for their love of the bag itself, but for the love of the attention it brings them.


What I do love about the bag is that it’s stood the test of time and its origin is authentic. It all came to be when a great-great-grandson of the Hermes founder sat next to British actress Jane Birkin on a plane in 1983. Birkin had a carry-on for her personal items, but they kept spilling out. A year later the Birkin bag debuted and the rest was handbag history.


The Birkin’s structured and more formal cousin is the Hermes “Kelly” bag, named after Grace Kelly when a photo of her carrying one appeared on the cover of “Life” magazine more than half-century ago.


Both bags are obscenely expensive….starting at $7,000! So there’s that. But, each bag is handmade and just choosing the skin for one can take up to two years. The base has three layers of leather (genius!) and all bags have either yellow or white gold hardware. Then there are the locks. A tiny Hermes- stamped padlock and specially numbered keys go to each owner.


Becoming an owner is not as easy as walking into a local Hermes boutique and buying one. Waiting lists can be as long as six years, although I’m beginning to wonder about this because every celebrity and reality “star” seems to have multiple Hermes bags. Although getting one was once difficult as documented in the hilariously entertaining book “Bringing Home the Birkin,” I’m thinking if you’re a Trump, Kardashian, or even a Real Housewife, all you need do is ask.


Very few of us can afford or would ever want to spend so much on one little purse, but whether you analyze designer bag offerings to purchase or for mere inspiration, they’re worth a look.


They are what inspire retailers on what to offer so if you can’t afford Celine’s bag with “wings,” you can probably find a similar one at Macy’s or a local boutique. One of my favorite purse purchases is a black round crossbody I found at Charming Charlie. It’s fun, it’s functional, and it was oh so affordable.  My Tod’s “D Bag” that I bought at Bergdorf’s on a visit to New York was not. But, it was my first “big” bag buy and it will always be special to me.




Look around any mall or airport and you’ll see one bag in multiples: Louis Vuitton’s “Never Full.” I feel lucky to own one as it is the perfect bag and the perfectly named bag. It literally is never full and is sturdy yet lightweight.


So there you have some of what are considered high end bags. On the next “expensive but maybe the perfect gift” level are fabulous bags by Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Coach, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs. Tory has some of the industry’s cutest and most popular crossbodies and totes, Spade makes some beautiful structured bags, and who doesn’t love a little Burberry plaid? I also highly recommend Longchamp’s “Pilage” tote and Tumi’s “Capri” crossbody, both of which I never travel without.



We can’t all afford a Chanel or Saint Laurent, but we all need purses, just not a ton of them unless you collect them like so many celebs do. Handbags are one fashion area where less is truly more. Think about it, if you save your money and buy a more expensive classic bag that will last for years, you can buy fewer bags in general and always be in style.


I’m also not of the thinking that you need to match your bag with your shoes so the fewer the better idea is right up my alley. The only time I do try to have a cohesive accessory look is perhaps a formal affair.



So what bags does every woman need, whether buying the real deal or a real bargain? Here’s my take.



A timeless crossbody. These can be worn over one shoulder or across your body. They are medium-sized and free up your hands so you can shop ’til you drop, take photos, or hang on to stairs and escalators while carrying other bags. They can also go inside a bigger tote or bag. I actually have several, including my beloved Valentino and Tumi, along with Michael Kors’ “Jet Set” that I find to be the perfect size.



A roomy tote. Look for minimal design in these so you can fill them up and yet not have them feel heavy on your shoulder. They should fit all your personal items and maybe even a laptop and emergency ballets or flip flops. Enter the LV “Never Full.” I also love Tory Burch and Longchamp totes.



The hot tote right now is Goyard’s “St. Louis.” The reversible bag is soft yet sturdy, functional, can hold a ton of stuff, but doesn’t have any inside zippered compartments or pouches. They are also extremely light due to the fact that they’re made from resin-coated linen. Each bag is hand-painted and you know you’ve got the real deal if it’s bumpy to the touch. Want one? Good luck. They’re only sold at Goyard boutiques and a handful of authorized retailers.



Something structured. These elegant bags have top handles rather than shoulder straps (some have both) with the queen of them being a Birkin. They are stiff and sturdy and present an “all business” look to even the most casual attires. Great for business meetings and work days, the classy tailored bags fit lots of stuff.  I don’t have one because I haven’t found the need for one. Think Kate Spade, Michael Kors, or Lanvin’s with a detachable shoulder strap.



A classic clutch. These are perfect for travel or for work-to-evening days, as they can be used on their own or slipped inside a tote. They literally come through in many a clutch situation! Similar to crossbodies in that they only hold your essentials, they add a bit of elegance to your look. I found a perfect black Rag and Bone on sale as well as a camel one at a little shop in Norman, Oklahoma for a steal.



Backpack. I’m not talking North Face here, I’m talking style for those times when any of the above designs just don’t fit your function. Tumi is your go to place for this, as is Rebecca Minkoff for her popular “Julian” version seen above. I also really like Sole Society’s selection and Herschel is also popular though pricey.




A weekender. These are practical, roomy yet stylish bags you can use for a weekend away or for the gym. I automatically think Land’s End or Vera Bradley duffels but you can virtually find one anywhere. Sole Society’s “Mason,” pictured above, is particularly nifty in that it has a zippered bottom section where you can keep your shoes separate from clothing and toiletries.



Bucket bag. Years ago I had a winter white Coach bucket bag that I adored. Oh to have it now…or better yet, this Burberry “Ashby!” The trend came back in a big way a couple of years ago with Gavriel’s much sought after version.  Often sporting a drawstrings, bucket bags are structured, but not too structured and fashionable but not too trendy. Think of them as the happy medium between a structured bag and a tote.



Evening bag. Most of us will never achieve Judith Leiber bag status, but we can dream, right? The legendary evening bag designer’s gems are more works of art than plain purses. If you’ve watched any awards show, you’ve seen a Leiber. Remember the adorable cupcake purse Charlotte’s young daughter hides her cell phone in during the first “Sex and the City” movie? It was a Leiber. When choosing an evening bag, whether Leiber or low-cost, think small, chic, and one-of-a-kind. This is also where you can have fun with bling and embellishments!




So there you have it: the 411 on all things purses. Have fun choosing yours and remember, “behind every successful woman is a fabulous handbag.”





News Flash: Valedictorians Not Changing the World June 12, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:02 pm


Tis the season for graduations. All over my Facebook page are photos of high school graduates, full of joy and full of promise. If you are one of those graduates but you weren’t valedictorian or top 10 percent, no worries. According to a new study you, the average student, may make a bigger difference in the world than those whose grades and scores were better than yours. Apparently doing your best is indeed more powerful than being the best.


The study, conducted by Boston University researcher Eric Barker, did find that valedictorians and salutatorians do traditionally achieve adult success and land top-tier jobs, but they don’t, as he calls it, “change the world, run the world, or impress the world.”


“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

Vince Lombardi


Ironically. BU is one of many universities whose admission policies favor the very students that a study they conducted says don’t automatically transfer their classroom success to boardroom success.


But, don’t get your diplomas and cords in a wad, the study didn’t conclude class rankers lack success, it concluded that they tend to equalize among those who finished in the middle and bottom of their class rankings once they hit the workplace pavement.


They also may not be millionaires. In yet another research project, 700 millionaires were studied and it was discovered that their average GPA was 2.9.


There’s hope, right?!


Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Tim Notke


That’s one of my daughter’s favorite quotes, and Barker would agree. In his book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” he concludes that kids who aren’t the smartest but focus and try hard are the ones who shake things up. They know the value of hard work, have faced challenges, and don’t feel entitled to anything. Things didn’t come easy for them so once they hit the real world, they seem to better adapt to and accept adversity and criticism. Makes perfect sense to me.



When Barker spoke with Business Insider, he explained the reasoning.


Number one he says, comformity is rewarded in high school as is the willingness to go along with whatever the system suggests. High achieving students are smart and smart enough to figure out just what teachers want and how to deliver those wants consistently. But, this is of no benefit to them after graduation because, as Barker explains, “In school, rules are very clear. In life, rules are not so clear.”


Rules do exist, but once employed, the valedictorian types tend to be employees who become the system but don’t change or improve it. They are great at following and implementing rules, but once the tried and true is not benefiting the company, they aren’t comfortable with thinking out of the box.


The other things schools tend to reward is being a generalist and knowing a little about everything. Not gonna happen in your job, where you will be expected to be an expert in the field, not someone who dabbles in math, science, and philosophy.




This all goes along with a blog I wrote recently for a client in which I referenced that very quote. Skills, you can train. Passion, you cannot.


You also can’t train accepting the cards you’ve been dealt. Attention the one-third of Millennials who say safe spaces on campuses are “absolutely necessary.” Reality check young coeds, life does not have a safe space.


It seems we are in the midst of raising a soft generation and one that is becoming increasingly ill-prepared for the real world. Would I hire one of those Notre Dame graduation walk-outs? Probably not. Whine away snowflakes, just not at my company.



It’s time the youth of today stop thinking about themselves so much, and instead think of others. Focus more on what’s right rather than on your rights. You have the right to be a good person so maybe consider how your intellectual talents can help a fellow student rather than your GPA. Do you have a musical gift? Go play or sing at a nursing home or hospital rather than practicing your craft alone in your room or music hall. It’s called empathy and it’s what makes a difference in the world we all live in.


Maybe it goes back to the fact that kids are not told “no” anymore. They’re given choices for everything and their every need is catered to. There is no positive pay-off for this and the result is more likely someone who is not motivated or resourceful rather than one who is grateful and ambitious. Put your CEO cap on. Which one would you hire?


Kids need to be told, “No, don’t touch.”

They need to hear, “No, you can’t do that.”

And they need to know, “No, we can’t afford that.”


They may hem and haw at first, but they will most likely grow up being resourceful and great problem solvers.



We praise the younger generation too much and we protect them too much. Trophies are still awarded for mere participation and kids are told they can do anything and do it all. No they can’t. Not all kids can make the team or be in the band. Every student will not go to college, and that’s okay. Society needs them and the trades they’ll learn. It’s important to let our little ones fail throughout their growing up years, which will help them learn determination, responsibility, and accountability.


Billionaire CEO Marcus Lemonis says graduates also need to “get a job” and not live with their parents. Yes, there are always exceptions to the moving back home dilemma, but they should be considered last resorts.


Lemonis, CEO of “Camping World” and star of “The Profit,” says every college graduate needs to get a job, any job, and do their own laundry, cook their own food, and pay their own bills. This, he says, will help them find a career path and shape their work ethic. Those are the kids he would hire and those are the kids we should be raising. Not those who have everything they want and need a safe space to go to.


Am I saying never help your children, especially in times of trouble? No.

Should we sit back if our kids fail at the “big stuff” and watch them suffer? Absolutely not.

Do we still help our grown daughter? Yes, but the minute we feel she’s not working hard or feeling entitled, all bets are off.


It’s a tough world out there. It’s a tough place to parent and it’s a tough place to work. But maybe that’s good. Tough means struggle and struggle often leads to success. As college dropout Michael Dell so prophetically said, “If you’re the smartest one in the room, find a different room.”





My Pack of Wolves June 7, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:57 pm

I’ve been dropped. Like a hot potato. Or a bad habit. By my dog.


Yep, my trusted sidekick Boomer has left me for another. My husband.


You see, for years Boomer was our only dog. She was the spoiled Queen B (for Boomer!) and pretty much ruled the roost. Then our daughter got a Beagle who visited every now and then. Boomer put up with Barry because Barry came and went and didn’t stay forever.


Unfortunately for Boomer, her owners fell in love with Barry and decided they wanted a Beagle of their own. Enter Nikki, the rescued Beagle we brought home last December. Unlike Barry, this Beagle doesn’t go away.


At this point Boomer was still “my” dog and Nikki was pretty much my husband’s. Two people, two dogs, all happy.



Happiest it seems when the two dogs are running free on our neighborhood golf course early in the morning or late in the evening when the golfers are gone but the deer and rabbits aren’t. Yep, my husband takes them nearly every day to do this and they love it! It’s made him their favorite and now I’m on the back burner. No amount of belly rubs, treats, or walks on a leash can compare to FREEDOM!!!


To make matters worse, Barry is back with us and looks to be indefinitely. It’s no big deal as we love having him around, but now we have a pack. A pack that sticks together. A pack that follows “Dog King,” as my husband likes to call himself, everywhere. Where he sits, they sit. Where he sleeps, they sleep. Just hearing the garage door open puts them in a full run to the door; Barry howling her Beagle howl all the way. Same thing in the morning. “You up???” “You ready to go???” You see, the pack thinks at any minute he could load them in the car and each one has major FOMO. They, even my beloved Boomer, won’t risk being with me in my office as I write this…or anywhere with just me…because if she is, she might miss out on the freedom ride.


She used to sit behind my back on my desk chair but now only comes in my office if Barry and/or Nikki come too. She’s definitely Alpha Dog though, as any good Jack Russell is, and our little pack of pooches have their roles. Boomer is the boss of the bunch, Barry is the fun youngster, and Nikki is the wise old veteran. They even have nicknames. Boomer is “OG” for original gangsta, Barry is “OB” cuz he’s the original Beagle, and Nikki is “LB” because she’s a tad stocky. OG, OB, and LB. I couldn’t love them more.


It doesn’t help that Dog King is forever giving his three followers “treats.” I literally cannot buy enough of them. Yet another reason they follow his every step.


Funny thing is, I’ve always been the dog person. He’s always liked our dogs but never to this extent. I secretly love it though, but please don’t tell any of them this!


It’s a fun dynamic even though Boomer’s dissing of me breaks my heart. It also reminds me that dogs are pack animals at heart and stick together.



I saw a variation of this months ago online regarding wolves. If you see a line of wolves in the wild, the three wolves leading the group aren’t the leaders; they are generally old and sick and have earned the front to set the pace. If younger wolves did so, these older ones would be left behind. By having them upfront, the group sticks together.


The next five in the line are the strongest of the bunch and their job is to protect the pack from any attack. The five behind them are also strong and theirjob is to protect the back of the pack.


And that last little wolf? The last one is the leader! He ensures that no one is left behind, keeps the pack united, and keeps all members on the same path. He’s also always ready to do anything it takes to protect the pack. You could say he’s the “bodyguard” of all.


“The strength of the pack is the wolf. The strength of the wolf is the pack.”

The Jungle Book


I remember learning similar things about sled dogs when I visited a musher camp in Alaska. Surprisingly, the hardest working aren’t the leads, but rather the two at the end of the tug line.


So, if our dogs were wolves, my guess is Nikki would be the lead, Barry would be in the middle, and Boomer would be the last one. Hopefully thinking of me the whole time.


Fitness Classes: The Good, The Hard, and the Challenging June 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:55 pm



So they say about an exercise routine or training program but have you thought about joining a fitness class lately or enrolling in a training program? Did you recently join a gym? Decided to get healthy? Breathed? Well, if you said “yes” to any of those you’ve probably discovered there are soooo many choices, many of which may sound foreign to you.


As they say in the south, “usta could” sign up for a fitness class and know what you’re signing up for. These days however, it’s like trying to buy toothpaste. Whitening? Tartar eliminator? Sensitive gums? HELP!!!!


Well, that’s me. I’m here to help. Help decipher all those classes you’ve heard about. Gone are the days of just aerobics and treadmills, enter the days of spin, barre, essentrics, and so much more.



Just today I saw a Facebook sponsored post on “Body Groove,” a four minute dance workout that promises to work wonders in just four minutes a day! I clicked on the link and watched it for a bit and will say it looked fun, but I don’t think it’s for me. For one, videos don’t work for me. I need to be accountable to someone. But don’t take my word for it on this one. Check it out to see if it sounds interesting to you.


What is for me is yoga and a class I’ve been doing in my neighborhood since we moved almost a year ago. It’s called Essentric Stretch, but come to find out I didn’t really know what it was until our awesome instructor Bonnie told us she had new business cards last week. On them was the title “Essentrics.” What? I thought all this time it “Eccentric Stretch,” as is an unconventional way of stretching. I was way off.



The Essentrics Technique is a full-body workout based on the theories of Miranda Esmonde-White. The completely original exercise lengthens and strengthens every muscle in your body and draws on the flowing movements of tai chi, the strengthening theories behind ballet, and the healing principles of physiotherapy. It increases flexibility, is considered an age-defying workout (I’m in!), and tones the body by dynamically combining strethening and stretching. It’s also low impact. Miranda is one of America’s greatest advocates on healthy aging and following her career as a professional ballerina, she developed Essentrics in 1997. Her show has been airing on PBS since 1999 and she’s served as a trainer to professional and Olympic athletes and celebrities. Who knew?!



I also do Yoga and I love it. And guess what? You can too. As a matter of fact, almost anyone can do yoga. Promise! I’ve been doing it for several years now but once we moved, I had to find a new class as our new neighborhood does not offer it. (Grrrrr!!!!) Our previous neighborhood had wonderful yoga offerings and even though I’d never done it,  I just showed up one day and fell in love. Yoga is low impact and it’s beneficial in so many ways. It’s a centuries old Eastern practice steeped in religion but for me it’s just a way to help my body. And my mind. I thought I knew what I wanted as I searched for a new class, but I quickly discovered there are many different kinds of yoga.


In my quest, I came to the conclusion that I’m a Hatha or Vinyasa yoga girl. Hatha classes are generally gentle beginner classes that teach you the basic poses of yoga. Instructors help you with modifications, breathing techniques, and explain why the poses are what they are. Vinyasa could be considered intermediate yoga and classes often have “flow” in the title. It is for those who aren’t beginners but aren’t ready to do a “tree” just for fun. In a Vinyasa class, you will shift positions in one fluid motion. For example, you might start with Warrior 1, go to Warrior 2, then Triangle, then Side Angle. And then start again.


Then there’s hot yoga. Great for advanced students and for tight muscles, the temperature is cranked up over 100 degrees and postures are held for up to one minute. Classes can be grueling but many swear by them.


If you see an Ashtanga or “power” yoga class offered, unless you have practiced yoga for a while or do cardio and strength training regularly, walk away. This variety is the most physically demanding and requires you to not so much “flow” from pose to pose, but jump quickly in order to raise your heart rate.


Whatever level you choose, think of yoga as a way to release the mind while improving breathing techniques, holding poses in order to build strength and balance, reduce stress, and renew energy. On days when I do an evening yoga class, I find I sleep much better.



Barre classes are all the rage now. Most barre-based classes use a combination of postures inspired by ballet, yoga, and Pilates and incorporate a ballet-style barre for balance. Exercises generally focus on isometric strength training and holding your body still while you contract a specific set of muscles along with high reps of small range-of-motion movements like plies. Lots of plies! Some classes also incorporate light hand-held weights and mats for targeted core work. I’ve never done a barre class, but I’ve heard they are hard but produce great results.




I’ve forever thought Pilates was created for and by dancers, but it was actually developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates and consists of controlled movements that improve flexibility, build strength, and develop control and endurance. It puts emphasis on alignment, breathing, developing a strong core core, and improving coordination and balance. Exercises are traditionally done in a specific order, one right after another, and may incorporate Pilates-specific equipment designed to help accelerate the process of stretching, strengthening, body alignment, stretching, strengthening, body alignment, and increased core strength. All Pilates work is done around the six original principles of concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing. It’s demanding but not the kind of workout where you work up a sweat. (Hello lunch break class!) It has a strong mind/body connection and might be just what you’re looking for if you want to strengthen your abdomen and pelvis, maintain good posture, strengthen and tone, and for increasing your flexibility.  Surprisingly, it’s often incorporated into other classes such as my stretch class and you’ll often find combo “yogalates” classes.


I did discover there is a dance tie-in though. Apparently dancers often practice Pilates as the method doesn’t build bulky muscles, which is something they try to avoid for the most part. Instead, elite dancers seek holistic strength of their entire body as daily dancing takes a toll on the body. Pilates helps them rectify the imbalances they tend to create in the studio and give them the space they need outside of the studio and outside of class to re-balance, release, and re-connect.



My daughter works with a personal trainer and visited a spin class and in a word, she said it was tough. You’ve probably heard about it and seen commercials for Soul Cycle and other programs, but what exactly are they all about? Spinning is a high-intensity cardio class consisting of cycling on stationery bikes. Classes are loud and energetic thanks to mic’d up class leaders and upbeat playlists. Participants are dripping in sweat, experience burning legs, and saddle soreness is not uncommon. Similar to treadmills and stationary bikes found in gyms, you can control speed and resistance on your cycle and some classes mix in upper body workouts, resistant bands, or a themed adventure. One idea I came across that might interest me at some point, are spin classes in the water! Still, even though Lady Gaga and Kelly Ripa tout spinning as the bomb, in my opinion, beginners need not apply.





Zumba is dance fitness aerobic program inspired by Latin American dance and created by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto Perez. Proponents say it is a fun workout that involves aerobic dance and movements performed to energetic music. The choreography incorporates hip-hop, samba, salsa, merengue, and mambo as well as squats and lunges. Surprisingly, the name “Zumba” means nothing and was chosen arbitrarily by Perez and the program consists of nine different types of classes, all with different goals.





CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen created by Greg Glassman that is both an exercise philosophy and competitive fitness sport. The strength and conditioning program consists of a mix of aerobic exercise, calisthenics, and Olympic weightlifting. People who do it swear it’s the fastest way to get fit but its military-style mix of squats, weights, barbells, and sprints is not for the weak. Hour-long classes at affiliated gyms, or “boxes,” typically include a warm-up, a skill development segment, the high-intensity “workout of the day,” and a period of individual or group stretching. Competition and individual progress on the WODs are common.



Orange Theory

You’ve recently seen them pop up in strip centers everywhere, but they’re not juice places or paint stores. They are basically one hour group personal training inside orange-glow filled rooms where you are pushed to get your body in the “orange zone.” The program was developed around a scientific approach called EPOC or post exercise oxygen consumption. Using this method, heart rates are monitored to keep the rate in a zone that is designed to continue burning calories after the high intensity interval training is over. This so called “after burn” keeps heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy. Conducted in small studios rather large gyms, Orange Theory workouts are also designed to build camaraderie and cultivate a team environment. Orange Theory is a tough workout and for those serious about their fitness routine.


Tracy Anderson Method

I’m including Anderson because her results are amazing. Think Gwyneth Paltrow and JLo. And because…have you seen Tracy’s body?! But don’t be fooled by the low impact design of the Method. Anderson’s revolutionary workouts are tough stuff and far from easy. I ordered her Metamorphosis DVDs, which are for those not near a TA studio, and didn’t hate them, but like I mentioned before, I need a class and an instructor I’m accountable to. If Ms. Anderson wants to visit my home three times a week, I’m in!


Anderson’s revolutionary method is intended to give anyone long, lean muscles and “true body happiness.” She knows this, because she’s done it herself. After moving to New York City on a dance scholarship when she was 18, Tracy gained a ghastly 35 pounds that she couldn’t shake from her 5’ frame despite over-exercising and under-eating. She put her dance dreams on hold and took note of the rehab program of her pro basketball player husband who was suffering from back problems. In it, a doctor eased the strain on large muscle groups by strengthening small, accessory muscles. The concept resonated deeply with Tracy, and after years of research, self-testing, and refinement, Tracy completely transformed her own body. Over five years, she created custom workouts that engage not the big muscles we think of, but smaller ones using small, quick movements. Her results didn’t lie then and they don’t lie now. If you don’t believe me, check her out.




Kickboxing is a full-body workout that includes knee strikes, kicks, and punches. It’s high-energy but fun training that challenges the beginner and elite athlete alike and helps build stamina and endurance, improve coordination and flexibility, burn calories and blast fat, increase self-confidence, and build lean muscle. It also teaches discipline. There’s no area of your body kickboxing won’t tone and tighten, and as an added bonus, you also learn self-defense!


Kickboxing is considered part of Mixed Martial Arts, better known as MMA, which has seen a substantial increase in interest over the past few years, thanks in part, to Ronda Rousey and Anderson “The Spider” Silva.



Martial Arts

Which brings us to martial arts. There are many kinds, but here are descriptions of some of the more popular types:


Aikido. A gentler self-defense style that emphasizes mental acuity, breathing, and timing. It focuses on finding the body’s spiritual center and physical center of gravity.


Judo teaches the principle of using your opponent’s strength against him. It’s highly physical and a tough workout.


Karate is actually a broad term that covers hundreds of styles using highly rehearsed strikes and blows using both your hands and your feet.


Tae Kwon Do combines the art of hand and foot fighting and includes the popular breaking of boards and sparring with opponents.


Tai Chi It incorporates a series of silent, fluid, seamless, and slow motion movements to improve strentcth and balance. It is considered the national exercise in China.


Finally, here is just a brief description of some additional fitness terms you may often hear often but are not quite sure what they are or how to do them:



A plank is an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up for the maximum possible time. You can also do perform one balancing on your elbows instead of your palms. Holding one is tough, but research shows that the best way to strengthen your core is via a simple plank because it builds isometric strength to help sculpt your waistline and improve your posture. When doing a plank, you use virtually every muscle in your body, so a simple hold is improving your back, arms, shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings. Start by holding maybe 30 seconds and continue to build up. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your stamina improves.




A kettlebell is a cast iron cast-iron cast steel weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle. They are used to perform ballistic exercises ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training and, if done properly, engage the whole body. “Done properly” being paramount. Holistic in their nature, kettlebell exercises often consist of large amounts of swinging movements in addition to dead lifts. They should be used with caution and only in the presence of a professional trainer. The improper use of a kettlebell can damage backs, wrists, and hamstrings.





Created by New York Physiologist Royal H. Burpee in the 1930’s (yes, the thirties!) to assess the fitness of everyday people, the four-count movement only later would it evolve into the six-count beast we know today.  The full body exercise will condition your entire body, develop strength, increase power, and improve anaerobic endurance. a full body exercise used in strength training and as an aerobic exercise. The basic “four-count burpee” is done in multiple hi-rep sets and consists of:

  1. Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. Jump feet back into plank position
  3. Jump feet forward.
  4. Return to standing.



Interval Training

Is your goal to burn more calories? Are you pressed for time to exercise? Then maybe you should consider interval training. Once the domain of elite athletes, interval training has become a powerful tool for the average exerciser, like me!

When I worked with a personal trainer a few years ago, she always had me do interval training. This mostly consisted of fast pedaling on a stationary bike followed by bursts of harder and faster pedaling. That’s basically interval training in a nutshell: simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. Another example would be while out walking, mix in a few bursts of sprinting or jogging. It’s easy to do and you’ll burn more calories. Best thing about it? There are no hard and fast rules or do’s and don’ts. Simply figure out your stamina and go from there.



All of this doesn’t include traditional programs like aerobics and I could include popular “at home” programs like P90X (lauded by Pink and Sheryl Crow), and Insanity, but I’m exhausted just thinking about all of it!


One long-time popular option I will briefly address is water-aerobics. While similar to aerobics, water aerobics differs in that it adds the components of resistance training and buoyancy. Although heart rates do not increase as much as in land-based aerobics, the heart is working just as hard and underwater exercise actually pumps more blood to the heart. In fact, exercising in the water is not only aerobic; it also builds strength but is easy on joints and muscles. It’s a great aerobic option for those physically unable to do regular aerobic workouts.


In researching this topic, I read something interesting. It recommends workouts be done at 4 p.m., when you have a natural dip in your metabolism. After any workout, it’s important to refuel. Protein is best and if you want to increase your metabolism, build lean muscle, and lose inches, eat a healthy meal within 45 minutes of your workout.


In all honesty, I envy those who are physically fit and actually enjoy exercising. I don’t and really never have. At this point in my life my goal is to be healthy and not be stiff. I don’t want to be one of those “seniors” who has trouble getting up and down or just getting around. So for now, I’ll stick with my walks, my yoga, and my stretch class. They stretch me to my limits and I actually enjoy them. That, my friends, is the first step to physical fitness. After that, just get moving.