Beyond Words

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

The Apple of My Eye August 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:56 pm


It’s back to school time, which means school supplies, carpools, and apples for the teacher. But why apples?  The tradition might be as American as apple pie, but where did it start? Not in America but in 1700s Denmark and Sweden. Back then education wasn’t government funded so families who couldn’t afford paying for school would give their children’s’ teachers baskets of apples and potatoes as payment. Not sure why potatoes didn’t stick with school and teachers, but that would be a bit like comparing apples and oranges.


The education-themed red fruit also has several biblical ties. We all know about Adam and Eve and their eating of the forbidden fruit and how one bad apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch of humanity, but did you know the common saying “the apple of his eye” comes from the bible? The phrase appears in four books of The Old Testament: Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, and Lamentations, with my favorites being “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,” from the Psalms and “Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye” from Proverbs.


But, what does this really mean?



Biblical scholars say what we utter as “apple” in these scriptures translates literally to “pupil.” In other words, see God and stay focused on His commandments. In ancient times, the pupil was believed to be a round, solid object comparable to an apple. Since it is essential to vision, a pupil was considered very precious so when you called someone “the apple of your eye” you were letting them know they were treasured and special. This could have probably also developed from the Anglo-Saxon word “arppel,” which means both “apple and “pupil.”


One of my favorite blogs, “Our Daily Bread,” takes it even a bit interestingly further by saying God is like an eyelid in that He encircles and guards the pupil and the eye as a whole. The eyelid protects the eye from danger, keeps it healthy, and allows it to rest. All of this God does for us if we let Him. In some ways, every time we blink or go to sleep we can think of God and thank Him for guiding us and protecting us. Eye love it!


Yet another bible-apple tie-in is none other than the Adam’s apple. That “bump” on a man’s neck is the result of puberty and changes in growth, particularly the larynx, also called the voice box. In males, the front of the thyroid cartilage that surrounds the larynx tends to protrude outward. Its name came about from an old wives’ tale that after Adam ate a piece of the forbidden fruit in The Garden of Eden, a piece got stuck in his throat and caused a bump. In reality, an Adam’s apple has nothing to do with the food one eats and doesn’t serve any medical function. The larynx however, does in that it protects your vocal chords.



Coincidentally, an apple is also one of the healthiest things you can eat. They are loaded with fiber and are known to fight Alzheimer’s, prevent colon cancer, stabilize blood sugar, prevent high blood pressure, reduce appetite, fend off heart disease, and fight high cholesterol. Eaten whole, they can also alleviate constipation and in applesauce form, are part of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) Diet used by moms everywhere to alleviate diarrhea.


When choosing apples, opt for smaller ones as large apples ripen faster and may not be the freshest ones in the produce section. What you’re making with or doing with an apple will also determine which one you choose. Most experts recommend buying organic apples as they are often high in pesticides, but whatever kind you buy, always wash an apple before eating one. And, if you’re looking to slice them and put them in your kids’ lunches, store them in the fridge in cold water and add a little bit of salt to keep them fresh and keep them from yellowing and getting rotten to the core.



Flavor-wise, most people have their favorites. I prefer a sweet apple so I generally look for Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, or Jonagold. If tart is more your style, Granny Smiths rank highest, followed by Macintosh, Rome, and Empire. Smack dab in the middle are Cameo, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Braeburn, and Pink Lady. Here’s a snapshot of all things apple:


  • Braeburn: Firm, tangy, juicy, and crisp. Great for baking, eating, and making sauces.
  • Cameo: Sweet and a bit spicy. Great in pies and all-purpose cooking.
  • Fuji: Crisp, juicy, and very sweet. Great for baking and in salads.
  • Gala: Sweet, juicy, and crisp. Not a good choice for baking but great for making cider.
  • Golden Delicious: Sweet, mellow, and semi-firm. Good for all-purpose cooking and eating.
  • Granny Smith: Tart, juicy, and very crunchy. Best for pies and baking.
  • Honeycrisp: Tart with a slight sweetness and crisp. Best for salads.
  • Jonagold: Slighty sweet and a little tart. Not a good choice for baking.
  • McIntosh: Tart, crisp, and tangy. Best in pies, salads, applesauce, and fresh eating.
  • Red Delicious: Sweet, tender, and juicy. Best in salads and fresh eating.
  • Rome: Firm and mildly tart. Best for baking whole and for cider.


The best season to buy apples is when school starts: in the fall. Of course it is, right? Apples are considered “winter fruits” and it’s those fruits that also have only moderate amounts of sugar. They are rich in fiber and are one of the lowest-glycemic fruits you can choose, charting much better than bananas and grapes.  Granny Smiths have the lowest amount of sugar, which explains their tartier taste.



All apples…red, yellow, green, sweet, or tart…all have something in common though: a star. Yep, if cut apple in half across its “equator,” you will see a star in the middle of each half. Kids love this!


I’ll leave you, my little apples of my blogging eye, with one more apple tidbit. We’ve all heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but where did it originate and is it true?


The common proverb is of Welsh origin and was first recorded in the 1860s. The original wording was “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread” and today’s wording originated at the end of the 19th century. But, is it accurate?


As we learned above, apples are indeed healthy, but a 2015 study looked at the relationship between eating apples and doctor visits and found no evidence that apples do indeed keep the doctor away. Still, they just might keep many an illness away and will probably make a teacher happy and grateful. You might even get an A for apple for doing so.



Set Goals with a Back to School Mindset August 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:10 am


Kids all over are heading back to school and “Back to School” is the theme in stores, homes, and all over social media. As an empty nester, I no longer have a back to school time in my house, but I have many friends who do and my preschool teacher job puts me smack dab in the mode. All of this got me thinking about an article I read sometime back about how actress and fitness junkie Alison Sweeney kick-starts her fitness routine each fall when her kids return to school by implementing some back to school ideas. I hunted and researched and found it thanks to Redbook.


Sweeney’s focus is fitness and exercise, but you really could use her method to achieve almost anything. Want to save money or learn a new skill? Maybe you’d like to perfect a hobby or play a sport. All you need to do according to Sweeney’s philosophy is stick to a curriculum, do your research, and study hard. Just like school, right?


Sounds easy, but Sweeney cautions and says to remind yourself that whether you’re hoping to lose five pounds or qualify for a marathon, you won’t get there overnight. Students aren’t expected to ace a test their first week or know everything off the bat, so you need to give yourself a break too. Start slow, reduce expectations, set goals, and learn ways to get where you want to be. You might want to read proven ways and study tried and true methods.



Start with your own “first day” by incorporating something teachers use to get their students motivated and in tune with what’s expected of them: a syllabus. Remember those? Projects, tests, and important dates and information are always included in these written down and handed out semester snapshots. They are basically a plan and just as they keep students on track, writing down your plan will keep you on track. Pick a start date and a goal date and then go to work.  I recently started Weight Watchers and this is one of their trademarks. On Day 1 you pick a goal weight. Writing things down is also known to alleviate stress and puts your objective upfront and out front. I’m also doing something I saw online called a Plank Challenge. Each day for four weeks you do a plank, starting with 20 seconds and increasing the length of time each day or every other day. It’s all written down and I check off each day’s interval.



Another thing Sweeney suggests is getting help when you need it. Students get tutors or work with friends on projects and test prep. Walk with a friend, get a personal trainer, hire a nutritionist, join a gym, take lessons, or hire a coach. My Weight Watchers meetings achieve this goal in many ways. They of course hold me accountable, but they also offer a support system and provide a leader who serves and chief encourager and inspiration.



Something students have to face that you and I don’t are quizzes and tests. But tests are good in that they track progress and show where one needs improvement, so consider “testing” yourself by implementing mini challenges here and there. I’d like to task myself to start walking more but the weather has been so hot and I’m not one to enjoy a treadmill. Still, I’m challenging myself to figure it out and just do it in an effort to add cardio to my weekly yoga classes. Maybe you could give up sodas for a week, vow to eat more fruits, practice your piano lessons once-a-day for a week, or save more money this month than last. Whatever you choose, be sure to reward yourself with an A+ when you pass that test!


By following this creative and could-be fun approach, you might just reach your goals and graduate with honors! Best of luck to you and all the kiddos headed back to school.









Clean Up On Aisle 5: Paintings With a New Perspective August 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:18 pm


Tis the season for “back to school” shopping and you can bet your back-to-school bottom dollar that much of that shopping will be done in Walmarts across the country. Walmart is, of course, the biggest retailer in the universe but did you know it’s also the subject of fabulous art?


American artist extraordinaire Brendan O’Connell is sometimes referred to as “The Walmart Artist,” but his gifts and vision go way beyond the bread aisle. Still, it’s those aisles of American staples that put him on the map and launched a career of depicting art in the most unlikely of places. Attention Walmart shoppers: you could be the subject of a high-dollar painting!


O’Connell earned degrees in both Philosophy and Spanish and after graduating he moved to Paris to teach languages. While there, he taught himself to draw and eventually quit his “day job” to take on art full-time. Meanwhile back in the states, Walmart was experiencing its heyday and rapid expansion. Little did O’Connell know that American commercialism would influence his work and his life in such a dramatic and colorful way.



Long influenced by artist Edward Hopper and his calculated Americana renderings, O’Connell returned home with the goal of sketching a slice of American life in its rarest form, unfiltered, and as he saw it. His first choice was retail outlets and their windows of America’s obsession with mass-marketed merchandise, which naturally led him to Walmart. He was fascinated by it all: the colors, the rows of products, the shoppers, the lights, and the fact that under one giant roof it all unfolded in enormity and excess.


“It’s the most visited interior space on the planet,” he says. “From an artist’s perception, the idea of dressing this environment is exciting.”


So, O’Connell set out across the country and began painting rows of goods and aisles of shoppers even though he’d often get kicked out by store managers. But, after profiles on NPR, in “The New Yorker,” and on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Walmart execs contacted him and told him they liked what he was doing and wanted to make it easier for him to continue doing so. The rest, as they say, is history and if you ask me, artistic genius on such a human level.



He says it’s simply finding beauty or significance in what are often otherwise throw-away moments. O’Connell revels in finding and depicting our place in the realm of consumption as well as society’s fetish with products. I love how he morphs otherwise starkly lit and uninteresting aisles into colorful and whimsical canvas creations. And although the retail giant is loathed by probably as many as it is cherished, O’Connell ‘s hopes his paintings will one day not only be considered a clever and brilliant artistic venture into a mundane environment, but something sentimental as well.


“Someday people may feel nostalgic about something they were terrified of, so what if we elevate the everyday moment into an act of beauty or piece of art?” he asks.


O’Connell’s work has since been elevated in exhibits in New York, Toronto, Shanghai, and a host of other cities. He also has permanent collections at the GA Museum in Athens and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. He has been commissioned by a number of companies including Walmart. Today O’Connell has built quite a repertoire that includes his signature works, and he is also the founder of Everyartist, a non-profit with the goal of promoting art among children. What better place to do this than in Walmart with a box of Crayola crayons and some colored pencils? Funny how things sometimes come full circle and make you wonder, right?



As for me, the next time I’m in a Walmart I’ll try to picture the aisles through his eyes: eyes of inspiration and imagination. Maybe while you’re doing your back-to-school shopping, you can give it a try too.



Walmart Facts

O’Connell calls Walmarts “whole cities of goods under one roof,” and many are indeed bigger than many towns and cities when you consider sales, profits, and products. Amazing, right? So are these other “fun facts” about Walmart:


Walmart is the largest private or semi-public employer in the world, with more than 2.3 million employees worldwide, which is more than the population of Houston.


In fiscal year 2015, sales were $482 billion, which is more than Iran’s GDP.


If Walmart were a country, it would be at least the 26th largest economy in the world.


The mega-retailer employs 1.5 million people in the U.S. alone.


One of every four dollars Americans spend on groceries is spent at Walmart.


90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart.


Walmart averages a profit of $1.8 million an hour.


37 million people shop at Walmart every day, which is more than the population of Canada.


Walmart is bigger than Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, Costco, and K-Mart combined.


Each week, Walmart serves more than 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries.

Bananas are Walmart’s top selling items.


Walmart accounts for 25 percent of Clorox sales.


If Walmart’s more than 900 million square feet of retail space were spread out over one place, it would take up roughly 34 square miles or about 1.5 times the size of Manhattan.


Walmart parking lots alone take up an area roughly the size of Tampa, Florida.


The most frequent destination typed into GPS device Telenav is Walmart.









Nobody’s Perfect August 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:19 pm


I try to have few regrets in life, but a glaring one I have is not going to visit my niece when she lived in Japan. She lived and worked there for years and married a Japanese man but they now live in the U.S. so I’ve somewhat missed my chance. Fingers crossed I can someday travel with them when they go visit his family.


In the meantime, I’ll remain a bit intrigued by Japanese culture and since I’m also a bit OCD, what better culture to be fascinated with then one that is known for being precise, polite, and proper? Take their food for instance.



In Japan, food is immaculately prepared and packaged because it must not only taste good, it must look good. Think of sushi and how stunning each little roll is and how beautiful it is plated when presented right. So perfect must food be in Japan that there is a $90 million industry devoted to replica food and those “good enough to eat” dishes one sees in a market or restaurant are often actually artificial food. Weird, right, but as a tourist faced with menus you can’t read, eating out can be a challenge in Japan. Through the magic of life-like food samples though, ordering can be as easy as pointing to what you want.


As with anything, there is also a downside. Food products with even the smallest defects are often thrown out. But, in a society not big on being wasteful or careless, this is changing. In recent years, “wakeari” products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese and these imperfect food items are now being used “for a reason” rather then tossed. Wakeari can also describe someone who is not perfect, which got me thinking, isn’t perfect overrated?



I’m raising my hand because I just got back from the orthodontist as I’m considering Invisalign. I’ve had perfect teeth (seriously and never had braces) my whole life but in recent years they have started to shift, especially my two front teeth. I’ve become very self-conscious of them and find myself not wanting to smile big. I know, great, but did you know one out of four people in orthodontic treatment are adults? Again, great.


So, after two of my closest friends bit the Invisalign bullet, I thought I’d give it look. Each doctor told me doing so is not purely cosmetic because at the rate I’m going, implants are nearly a guarantee at some point. After two consultations I’m still deciding if it’s something I really want to invest in in search of perfect teeth.





Perfection is not easily attained by any stretch of the matter. Tom Brady lost a Super Bowl this year. Jennifer Aniston has relationship woes. Oprah struggles with her weight. The so-called perfect presidential candidate lost. Not only is it hard to be perfect, it’s impossible. No one is perfect. Okay, maybe Mary Poppins but even she’s not real. Try as you may to be the perfect parent, perfect friend, or perfect worker, you will ultimately fail. You can also try to have the perfect body and face, but at what expense, both figuratively and financially? But Carla, what about all those perfect people we see on TV and on social media? Trust me, they are not perfect either. Case in point:




Make-up, glam squads, and cosmetic surgery can do wonders, but when all is said and done it’s all really not the real you or them. Fake lips and boobs? People know it. Tons of make-up? It’s for sure covering tons of flaws. Instead, why can’t we strive to accept our imperfections and know that even though we are imperfect, we are loved?


The Perfect Storm

Perfectionism is described as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly harsh self-criticism, both of which can lead to psychological difficulties. Perfectionists are often coveted in the workplace, but truth be told, unrealistic expectations of yourself and others may occasionally lead to success, but may also result in high levels of stress, substance abuse, and self-doubt. Perfection and satisfaction rarely go hand-in-hand. Finding the balance is the key. Yes, work hard, have goals, and strive to be the best, just make sure those goals are tangible, realistic, and constructive.



In his “The Case Against Perfection” article in The Atlantic and subsequent book, Harvard’s Michael Sandel examines genetic engineering. His concern is that being able to “control” nature coupled with our incessant urge to improve our lot in life may ultimately lead to trouble. He specifically names issues like steroids in sports and choosing a baby’s sex along with other enhancements he says “diminish our human dignity.” Along these paths, our notions of good and bad change, as does our idea of perfection. We stop celebrating nature and instead want to mess with it.


If you find yourself striving for perfection, you are not alone, especially if you’re in a younger age group. A recent study by the University of Bath and York St John University analyzed data from more than 40,000 British, Canadian and American university students from 1989 to 2017 and found that the obsession with perfection amongst this age group has risen more 30 per cent over the last 30 years. I’m looking at you Millennials. These young adults are also 33 percent more likely to believe their environment is excessively demanding and that others judge them harshly. Of no coincidence is the fact that these are those who have grown up in the social media age so it should come as no surprise that their imposing of unrealistic standards on those around them and evaluating others critically has increased by 16 per cent.


Scary, right?


Finding the Perfect Balance

As the fabulous movie “Finding Your Feet” asked, “How do you expect to take control of your life when you’re so obsessed with the lives of others? It’s time to step back and say “Yay me, imperfections and all.”




How about we focus more on what’s inside then what’s outside? We’ve all heard the saying that a pretty face can’t hide an ugly heart so why don’t we believe that? How about we strive for progress not perfection? Scruples not scalpels and principles not pretty? News flash: perfect people aren’t real and real people aren’t perfect.



I know, it’s hard though. But think about it, how many of your friends and family do you really and truly consider “perfect?” Probably not a whole lot but my guess is you love them just the same. And you admire and respect them. That perhaps is the key: respect. We all need to do a better job of respecting ourselves while accepting ourselves because once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you. Not bullies, not social media sites, not anyone.



Do you have a specific talent or gift that gives you joy and that you enjoy sharing with others? Those are the things that, even though you might not do perfectly, make you perfectly awesome and imperfectly amazing. You can also step back and take a look at your life. What is it made up of that you hoped and prayed for previously? When and what is enough enough and what are you really looking for? If it’s perfection, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.


I know of what I write. My name is Carla and I’m a perfectionist. I want to be the perfect writer and want the perfect teeth again. I also want the perfect house and to be the perfect wife and mother. I’m open to you helping me load the dishwasher but odds are I’ll rearrange the entire thing before pressing that “start” button. At the same time, I’m accepting. I accept that my life isn’t perfect but it’s blessed. I also accept that I’ll never be a size 2 but am currently in the process of losing weight and I love my yoga class. As with possible teeth straightening, I do this all for me and not to be perfect, but to feel good, to feel healthier, and to feel better.  I’m well aware that I am far from perfect and that none of what I do will make me perfect, but they will improve me in all the right ways while making me healthy, balanced, flexible, confident, and centered. As long as I’m not an old lady who is stiff, can’t physically do things, and have dentures, I’ll be happy and satisfied. I might even say, “that’s perfect!”




So let’s all step back and evaluate our expectations and realize that even though we are all flawed…and I mean we’re all flawed…we are still beautiful and worthy. Perfect, right?