Beyond Words

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

The Friend Zone January 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:14 pm


A friend of mine posted an article recently that I found very interesting and somewhat surprising. Written by Greg Trimble, the article discussed “The Most Dangerous Temptation That Faces Our Youth.” I’m sure right now you are going through a list of bad influences, right? I did the same thing and I bet you came up with a similar list. But, does that list include the “what has more influence over you and your kids than anything else”: friends?


Yep, turns out social media, drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, broken families, guns and violence, and the likes don’t have the power over us that our friends do. The success your child has in school is not so dependent on what classes they take, what teachers they have, what school they attend, or even your influence at home but more so on those they closely associate with, even at a young age. In fact, according to the article, the universal common denominator that dictates the course of our lives comes down to the people we hang out with on a consistent basis. They not only impact our choices, but our social calendars, what we eat, what we wear, and what we do for a living.



This could be our chosen group of friends, a team we are on, or girlfriend and boyfriend. In short, the friends you choose are the catalyst of your own happiness and destruction and the friends your kids choose will more than likely dictate the path they’ll go down in life. No one, regardless of how strong or morally upright you think you are, can stand up to the daily influences of the people you hang around the most. Friends, come to find out, especially in our youth, have a more powerful influence over us than anything else. Makes you think, right?



It made me think back to friends choices I’ve made throughout my life. As a little girl growing up in a small town, my friends were pretty much my neighbors. If you lived near me, we were friends. As I ventured into junior high and high school however, I got to make choices regarding friends and I’m here to say they weren’t always the best choices. I constantly heard my mom and dad telling me they didn’t really care for so-and-so and asking me why I didn’t instead hang out with fill-in-the-blank with a “nice” girl. As much as I fought them and thought I knew all, in the end, they were right.



I ended up getting my friends act together in college and to this day, I call it a God thing. I showed up at the University of Oklahoma in 501 Levis and a flannel shirt only to find my suite and roommates decked in Polo, Izod, and Penny Loafers. It was a scary scene of preppy meets mountain mamma but I loved it. I quickly learned to love school and love learning too. You could party hard (it was the ‘80s after all) but you had to study hard too. Before I knew it, this former barely passing high school classes girl was on the Dean’s List. People often wonder why I love OU so much and this is one of the main reasons. It saved my life in many ways by giving me good friends….both in values and morals and in loyalty and lifelong friensdships.



It could have easily all gone wrong had I met and made the “wrong” friends. We probably all know someone who falls in this category. The girl or boy who seemed to have it all but ultimately finds trouble and heartache. Nine times out of 10 it’s probably due to who they hang out with. We often ask “what went wrong with Julie?” and wonder where we as parents went wrong or where Julie went wrong. We tend to blame drugs, laziness, promiscuity and the likes but news flash: if their friends weren’t into any or all of those, they probably wouldn’t be either.



So what can parents do? Yes, try to steer them in the right direction and to avoid the icky and filthy pitfalls that are everywhere, but also pay close attention to their friends. Bad friends mean bad choices. It’s that simple. Trimble also says it’s important to teach them respect, practice faith, keep their clothes on and their language clean, and have a strong work ethic. If the friends they hang out with follow these same guidelines, they most likely will too.



It’s not so much social media we should worry about or movies and music. It’s friends…both those we have on “reality” TV and in real life. If you choose good friends, you’ll probably stay clear of bad movies, TV shows, and music but if you take part in any or all of those, they too become your “friends” and you will probably start acting, talking, and dressing like them. We tend to compare ourselves to these fictional friends and to real friends as well. That’s why your pals can heavily influence your self-esteem as we compare ourselves to the group or clique we are in and the one we wish we were in.


In today’s cyber-focused world, society of strangers, and internet bullying, you kids will most likely be exposed to evil and become caught up in it all. We have hundreds of “friends” online but there loneliness prevails due to the shallowness of all this friendom. Relationships, specifically friendships, are becoming more and more shallow and less meaningful and authentic.



Encourage your kids to join a club, be on a team, or join a group like band. Studies show these encourage kids to want to go to school and be proud of something. It also prevents idle time and boredom, both of which often result in trouble. Playing on a team or being in the band means you don’t have time to mess around. It also means you learn teamwork, the value of practice and hard work, learn to take direction from someone other than your parents, and strive to be good at something with your friends, who are often right there by your side.


The internet and our social groups influence how we dress as well. Style consultant and author Sherrie Mathieson says that when it comes to your clothes, whatever style you’re seeing on a daily basis is the one you will more than likely choose for yourself.


But it’s not just youth that is influenced by friends; we all are. In his “Guardrails” talks and written works, Andy Stanley reminds us that friends influence the direction and quality of our lives regardless of our age. Sadly, he says people often drop their guard around those they are comfortable with and who accept them and that’s precisely when and why we are easily influenced by them in both good and bad ways. He suggests putting up “guardrails” to protect us from dangers and bad choices. Ultimately, if you surround yourself with wise and good people you too will be wise and good. Just yesterday “Happiness Project” author Gretchen Rubin posted on this subject, saying strong relationships make it far more likely that we will take joy in life, lengthen life, boost immunity, and reduces the risk of depression.


When choosing your squad, you are basically making a monumental decision that will influence so much of your life. It may sound cliché, but choose your friends wisely. And think quality, not quantity as it’s said we’re the sum total of the five people we hang out with the most. It only takes one bad egg to steer someone in a bad direction.


In support of this are Nicholas Chirtakis’ TED talks during which he addresses research that shows non-drinkers who spend time with drinkers significantly increase their chances of becoming drinkers, a fact that holds true with obesity, violence, immoral activity, drug abuse, and even risk divorce.


Photo courtesy libbyvandploeg

But let’s change the focus a bit and look at the positive ways our tribes influence us. Yes, they are there with a shoulder to cry on, a laugh to share, and overall support and respect, but they also influence everything from our financial achievements to career performance. Looking at your friends you might be thinking, “No way does he or she have that much power over me,” but they do.


According to Kelly Kearsley of, friends bolster our self-control by helping us avoid making bad choices and resisting temptations and they impact us in a number of ways, including:


They motivate us to work harder.  Students who hang out with friends who get good grades improved their own performance and grades and same with co-workers. In short, if you want to improve your lot in life, hang out with people who are already there.


When it comes to our health, friends can either make us healthier or unhealthier, including our eating habits, which are heavily influenced by those we consistently associate with. In fact, your chances of becoming obese increase 57 percent if you have a friend who is obese. Consider this, you go out to eat with friends and have every intention of ordering something healthy but as you see them order burgers and pizza, you go along those lines. The opposite holds true too. If you sat down to eat and were craving fried chicken but your buddies all ordered grilled chicken, chances are you’d follow suit. It’s the same situation with exercise. Having friends to exercise with improves a person’s health and if your friends aren’t physically active, you probably won’t be either.


Friends, especially good ones, are hard to come by however. Making friends means being a friend. As I tell my little preschoolers and always tell my daughter, “No one has to be your friend. You need to make someone want to be your friend.” Thankfully she has a strong support system of good and loyal friends.


My husband does too as he still has close and trusted friends he’s known since grade school. He also has a great group of college contacts, adult pals, and golf buddies. Me? I count both him and our daughter two of my besties and the rest of my squad consists of my coworkers, who inspire my faith; longtime friends who I may not see regularly but I know I can count on in a heartbeat; and those college girls who this month will be taking our annual girls trip…our 17th straight.


Not all friendships last, which can be a good thing, as we go through friends phases and sometimes a friendship just expires. Thankfully as we age we grow in relationship self-worth with self-esteem, which take off around age 60 and peak in our 70s. It makes sense, as a University of Kansas study revealed you have to dedicate 50 hours to graduate from acquaintance to “casual friend,” 90 hours to jump to “friend,” and more than 200 hours to earn “close friend” status. Yep, that’s a lot of time and effort, but from the sounds of it, it’s time well spent.



Weighing In January 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:02 am

That’s a photo of me and my WW Coach Julie. She has been with me for more than a year now and was with me the night I hit my “Lifetime” WW goal. Formerly Weight Watchers, WW is what got me going and what’s gotten me where I am right now.


Where I am is nearly 50 pounds lighter (give or take a tailgate or trip to New Orleans or Santa Fe!) and a whole lot healthier. I’m not here to brag, I’m just here to say “If I can do it, you can do it” and to answer questions I’ve repeatedly gotten.




I first did WW some 25 years after binging on bacon and baked potatoes while birthing our daughter and then again some time later. Both feel like ages and lifetimes ago, and in subsequent years I got bigger and bigger. I knew it and I felt it and yet in some way I didn’t care. That is, until my friend Anne (who is enviably thin and adorable) mentioned she was doing Weight Watchers when we got together with friends for the pre-Megzit royal wedding and before what WW calls my “why.” My why came in June of 2018 when, looking at photos of my daughter’s and my trip to Paris, I saw myself and thought, “You’re done Carla. You’re fat and time’s up.”


No one forced me to do it. No one suggested I do it. And no one walked me into a Weight Watchers meeting the very next day after cringing through those Parisian pics. I’ll never forget hearing energetic and inspiring leader Darlene tell us that for every 10 pounds you lose, you take 40 pounds of pressure off your knees. Amazing, right? That’s what I thought as I sat there with one knee that creaked. Think about it. How many people do you know who have had knee surgery or knee issues? Most are either long distance runners, on their feet all day due to their job, or are overweight. A small percentage is genetic and unavoidable, but I was determined I was not going to be a stiff old lady who can’t walk comfortably or climb stairs. In short and most importantly, I did it because I wanted to. And, like any 12-step program or self-improvement process, that has to be Step 1.



So step on that scale I did and from that day on I vowed I was going to lose weight and gain well-being. But, in a healthy way. No fad diet, no shakes or cutting only carbs. I basically ate almost whatever I wanted but in a controlled way and knowing it all had to fit within my daily allotted points, which are carefully and brilliantly calculated by WW. If I wanted my beloved queso one night I could have it, but I’d have to make amends somewhere else. Do I wish I could have queso, pizza, hamburgers, chips and dip, pimento cheese, and brownies every day? Heck yes! But, do I wish I was at my old weight. Heck no!




“Before and After WW” photos taken one year apart


I am by no means a health food nut now who does all her organic shopping at Whole Foods so let’s get that out there right now. But, I’m never really hungry and along the way I’ve learned to eat more balanced and more healthy. Seeing the results over time helped stick to the plan and it convinced my husband to jump on board and he’s also lost a substantial amount, as you can see from the photos above. Doing it together definitely helps but I stand firm that I would have done it alone had he not joined me. I was that determined.



I am now on what’s called “maintenance,” which basically means I eat to maintain my current weight. Yes, the holidays were hard but the beauty of WW is that you can jump right back on board and start anew. Do you have to eat healthy and light every single meal? No, focusing on healthy while still enjoying life and enjoying food is the goal. You also need to pay close attention to the difference between a celebration or splurge and just eating bad or making bad choices.


Keeping it off can be a struggle, as we all know. We reach that goal and then drop off. But, with WW I still weigh in and I still go to meetings, which have proven to make the difference in keeping the weight off and putting it all back on. Should I gain a pound or two, I will respond quickly and get right back on course as the sooner you respond to even a slight weight gain, the less likely you are to fall off the weight loss wagon. It also helps that my husband is still participating too.


WW is also big on “non-scale victories,” those little “yay” moments that have nothing to do with what you weigh. These might be compliments from others or the fact that I can now shop with friends and not feel self-conscious about the sizes I wear.


I will admit that compliments and some of the attention my weight loss has brought has been hard for me to take. I’ve never been one who likes attention and compliments have forever been a struggle for me. If someone tells me they like my outfit, my first reaction is to usually say something like I’ve had it forever or it was on sale. If you’ve noticed, I rarely include photos of myself on a blog (doing it this time is taking everything I’ve got) but I’ve learned to simply say “thank you” and with my weight loss I’ve learned to accept the praise and be proud of myself.



I do love that I feel lighter and healthier though, but what I love most is that I accomplished something. At my age, you really don’t accomplish a whole lot. I’ve raised a successful and respectful daughter. I’ve been married for more than 30 years. I’ve had the big jobs and done the big things. I’ve traveled the world. But what do I actually accomplish every day? Like big time accomplish, not simply cook a healthy dinner or write a thank you note? Not a whole lot, but now I feel accomplished and it’s a good feeling.


This whole journey also gave me a chance to put myself first, which I never do. It was time to take care of Carla, stop playing games, and get her mind and body right. I do take some pride in knowing that I didn’t lose weight because a doctor told me to. I lost weight simply because I wanted to. I put Carla first.



Carla has never been a lover of exercise I do love yoga, which I consider a mind and body exercise and do regularly. Now my plan is to add more cardio into my daily routine. You lose weight but you don’t lose flab, so I’ve been walking more and doing more weight bearing exercises. I’ll also squeeze in “random acts of fitness” that are fun and might inspire me to take on new challenges. I also drink water all day every day. I’m never without a water bottle.


I’ve learned, however, that your weight is 80 percent due to what you eat and only 20 percent of your activity. Yes, if you run 10 miles every day you can pretty much eat whatever you want but who among us does that? You need to reduce calories to lose weight and incorporate exercise to keep it down. If you consistently take in more calories than you need, much of them will get stored as fat. As my fit sister-in-law Susan has forever said, “you need to balance what you put in with what you take off.” And be honest with yourself. As healthy as I may have thought I was, I didn’t join WW because I’ve had too many fruit servings or too much salad dressing!


Funny thing is, I don’t see myself as a thin person. I still see the chubbier Carla, her back fat, and her non-boney knees. My girlfriend Barbara told me I need to get rid of all my “flowy” tops and as right as I know she is, it’s hard. I still don’t like anything clingy or tight and you’ll never see this girl in anything short or sexy. I may be thinner but I’m not any younger!



I have replaced many of those flowy tops with new ones, as I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe, and more than once. First it was summer clothes at the start of my weight loss journey, then it was fall and winter. And then guess what, I’d lost a whole lot more so it was back to more new spring and summer clothing and then fall and winter again. It’s been fun but it’s also been expensive. But, I’ve learned to buy only essentials and only things that, for lack of better words, mix and match. You could say it’s yet another non-scale victory.


I remember another friend of mine, Christie, saying on one of my annual college girls’ trips that “the best accessory is thin” and it’s stuck with me all these years. In a way, she was right. Still, we need to make sure we don’t become weight obsessed and venture into the dark world of too skinny, which is just as unhealthy and dangerous as too heavy. Pretty sure I never have to worry about becoming too skinny but it’s a warning to all of us.



I’ve learned this and so much else through WW including that what I put in my head is as important as what I put in my mouth. People (and some national weight loss company advertising) lament about having to count points and go to WW meetings but I gotta tell you, those meetings are so supportive and informative. And the “counting?” It’s all done on a fabulous app that not only counts your points, but can scan grocery items, share recipes and mindfulness, and hook you up with live WW coaches. It is amazing and it all made me realize that losing weight was way more important than eating what I maybe thought I wanted. It’s no longer about choosing something bad to eat but rather choosing to stay on goal.



We need to remind ourselves that food is fuel. It’s not supposed to be a therapist or entertainment. It doesn’t even always have to be amazing, which I’ve learned as I’ve tested new meal plans and recipes. Top Chef-worthy cooking has not invaded my kitchen (I don’t love to cook and have always said one of the first things I’d get if I won the lottery is a personal chef) and I’ve had to ask myself “what are you willing to give up?” Pasta and breads went away as did fast food and pizza. Things I couldn’t give up were my morning coffee creamer, although I now only do sugar free, and my evening wine. I also haven’t given up Tex-Mex totally but our weekly Sunday steak nights are no more. I still indulge however, but it’s never for long. It’s amazing how either full or guilty I feel after doing so and I’m usually pumped to get back on plan.


Another nice thing about WW is that you never have to be “that” person who can’t eat what someone is serving or something at a restaurant. Keto, paleo, vegan, Ideal Protein, Whole 30, shakes meal replacement, mailed prepped meals…all of those…just aren’t for me and for many aren’t sustainable anyway. I can eat anything a friend might serve at a dinner party without asking for special treatment or foods so sorry Marie Osmond, you can introduce all the new plans you want, but I’ll stick with mine.


That plan is to maybe lose a bit more but nothing too drastic. I don’t want to have to buy all new clothes yet again! I will keep eating right most of the time, keep doing yoga, and keep walking. It’s actually pretty simple right?


Yes and no. It does take hard work and it takes discipline. Nothing comes easy and you have to be patient as healthy weight loss takes time.  Notice I said healthy weight loss. Yes there are plans out there that promise the moon, but chances are that weight loss universe will come crashing down once real life returns. It took me from June 2018 to November 2019 to hit my goal and eventually make Lifetime. I stumbled along the way and was near tears at some points, especially when I felt like I had legit plateaued. Coach Julie though, the pro and pal that she is, was there to set me straight and has been there for me every step of the way.


I step out today lighter and healthier and will end with this: We are all beautiful; we may just not be healthy. But, if true hunger is not the problem or the issue, food is probably not the answer.




When Harry Met Meghan: The Crown in Crisis January 12, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:50 pm


If you know me at all, you knew this was coming. My take on “Megzit,” which unless you’ve been living under a rock the past week, you know all about the story that dominated headlines alongside Iran and fires in Australia. A bit silly to say the least, but to this lover of all things royal and to millions around the globe, it was big news. No, make that HUGE news.



But, just in case you missed it, here’s the breaking news out of London: Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made a surprise announcement that they are essentially giving up their royal ties and are seeking independence from the throne. That throne mind you, is none other than the British monarchy as Harry’s grandma is Queen Elizabeth II.


The fact that they made their very unorthodox announcement without the Queen’s knowledge (and on Kate’s birthday for crying sake) is in and of itself big. What they announced however, was even bigger.



Quick family background: Harry’s dad is Prince Charles and his mom was the late great Princess Diana. Charles is first in line to the throne and Harry’s brother Will, who is married to Kate Middleton, is second in line to the throne. The Queen, Charles, and Will are pictured above with Will’s son Prince George, who is next in line after Will.


In part, the social media placed announcement read: “We have chosen to make a transition this year to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”





Oh bloody hell.


To say the least, her Majesty was not pleased. Maybe she should have seen it coming but she’s probably seriously conflicted about the how’s and why’s of when Harry met Meghan, who from day one made it known she’s her own woman. After she and Harry spent a six-week Christmas break away from the royals, flags should have been raised. Red flags.


After the announcement, the former actress flew solo to Canada while Harry stayed home. His momma has convened an emergency meeting tomorrow at her Sandringham estate where she, Charles, Will, and Harry will work to agree on what comes next. Any viewer of Netflix’s popular and brilliant “The Crown” series is well aware that if the royals are guided by anything, it’s precedent. Harry and Meghan’s hasty and “in your face” move was anything but standard practice or proper protocol. Don’t look now but two millennials are making their move and validating stereotypes. We want our way and we want it now.


Flashbacks of King Edward VII who, only months into his reign, abdicated the throne in 1936 rather than not marrying twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. The two married, he was demoted to Duke of Windsor, and Harry’s great-grandpa King George VI was crowned, paving the way for his grandma, the current Queen, to be crowned upon her father’s death in 1952. The parallels are uncanny, right? Divorced American. Fun loving and popular prince, albeit not one who will likely succeed the throne. Harry remains sixth in line to the British throne and is a former British army officer however, so to just walk away and head to the Hollywood hills is insulting and perhaps even ill-advised. It was a scandal 84 years ago and it’s a scandal today.


So, what are my thoughts? In all honesty, they are mixed and multi-layered. I loved the whole idea of Harry and Meghan and think she is bright and beautiful. The day of their 2018 wedding, girlfriends and I had a royal wedding sleepover complete with Elderberry cake and crowns and we stayed up to watch it all live. I loved her simple and elegant dress and I loved the way Harry seemed so ga-ga over her. It seemed like two soul mates were joined in a fairy tale setting.


We’ve since come to find out who wears the princely pants in their family and her name is Meghan. Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong woman who believes in herself but I also love tradition, rules, and standards. Still, any girl in her right mind is admittedly jealous of Meghan’s obvious power and the fact that she got a real life prince to abandon his palaces and castles! At the same time, I’m also blaming her for validating the entitled American stereotype and along the way reigning (excuse the pun) in comparisons to another famous wife: Yoko Ono. In my heart of hearts I think Meghan is behind this whole thing and sweet Harry is going along with it because he loves her and remembers what happened to his mom.


But please you two, suck it up and accept your roles with class and dignity and count your blessings.


Photo credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP


Yes I get it, being royal can be a big fat pain in the butt. You are mercilessly hounded by the press and you really have no independence, opinion, or privacy. But, you have an unlimited bank account, fabulous homes and clothes, and in Meghan’s case, a husband who adores you. So it comes down to this for me: Meghan is reportedly a smart girl so she knew full well what she was marrying in to. It’s not like she married a boy from Buffalo and then decided she doesn’t like snow. This is the ROYAL FAMILY and you don’t go into “The Firm” thinking you’re going to change the script like some Hollywood movie.


Back to their announcement and another thing that caught my eye, Meghan is American, right? But, pay close attention to the fact that they say “North America,” not the U.S. where she was born. And, she is reportedly currently hiding out in Toronto, the city in which she taped her TV show “Suits”, which I’ve never seen BTW. Seems Canada is going to be their “American” base, not America. Hmmmmm. Also, the proclamation states that they still plan to, “raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born,” but there is no mention about his American roots; roots many believe Meghan is not too proud of at the present moment. Double hmmmmm. Lastly, “carve out a new progressive role?” It’s no secret Meghan is left-leaning and progressive but to so publicly and brashly state their agenda? Maybe I’m misreading their wording, but still, hmmmmm.


Okay, so they want to be financially independent, right? Isn’t this a good and admirable thing? Yes! But, are they doing it for the right reasons? Are they doing it because they feel it’s silly for them to be making millions simply because of who they are or are they doing it because they know their goals don’t fall in line with the very institution that makes them “who they are” and it’s easier to walk away then play the game? And also why pretell, have they filed to trademark “Sussex Royal?” Shouldn’t they be doing their thing now as “Harry and Meghan” as they make their way on the down low? Maybe they need a Hollywood name in the likes of Brangelina and Kimye. Trademark that moniker and stop using your titles.


It’s being said Harry and Meghan will no longer receive funding from the Sovereign Grant but where are they going to live like starting tomorrow? And how are they going to get there? Uber? Southwest Airlines and hope they remember to Early Bird? And who’s going to protect them? And what about Archie? What might he think one day when he grows up and learns he’s living in West Toronto instead of Windsor Castle? Up until now the family has been living in Frogmore Cottage, part of a 17th Century estate owned by the Crown, which ironically underwent some $3 million is renovations at their request. Will the British taxpayers get a refund on all those updated window and wall coverings?


I can’t help but wonder what Diana would think of all of this. She’d probably secretly be proud of Meghan for standing her ground but ultimately I think it would break her heart because despite all her so-called rebelliousness, she was at heart a traditional English girl and would want Harry to yes, honor his wife, but also his ancestry.



There’s also the case of Will and Harry, who have always been extremely close. How does Will feel about Harry stepping away and leaving him the Lone Ranger? It seemed like the two couples had “BFFs” written all over them, but it quickly became very apparent that Kate and Meghan had little if anything in common. Maybe family isn’t a personal priority for Meghan. She’s famously at odds with her dad and step-siblings but she is extremely close to her mom. In the end, when she said “I do” she also said “I don’t” to an extended family of dukes and princesses to replace the family she never had. “Happily ever after” for Harry and Meghan very clearly meant happily on our own.


Harry does seem to be madly in love with Meghan but is she with him? Yes of course she loves him but maybe, just maybe, she also saw in him a way to advance her platform and have her voice heard. Sadly, all the negatives and doubts that were thrown her way before the wedding are now somewhat coming to fruition. But, does she care? Not likely. And there lies another “problem” with Meghan: her “I’m above all this” and somewhat arrogant attitude. It’s hard enough being a public royal; being one that is a bit unlikable does not help your cause.


But please, is wanting to become financially independent and live your own life really a bad thing? No, but this is undeniably different. Many didn’t love Meghan to begin with, wanting instead another Kate Middleton, but at the same time many are applauding her courage.  Still, when Charles’ wife Camilla is suddenly considered more popular than you, it can’t feel good.


The Queen is said to have offered the couple many concessions to avoid this situation, but they wanted more. Of course all of this is rumor and speculation, except for the Sussex’s announcement, and there is undoubtedly so much we do not know and will never know. “Official word” out of the Palace has always been hard to come by and this latest spectacle will be no different.



Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, London


Be that as it may, I don’t agree with some of the harshness being handed to the couple, particularly the move by London’s Madame Tussaud’s wax museum that removed Harry and Meghan’s wax figures that were among those of fellow royal family members. I also don’t think that any criticism of Meghan is racially based but I do believe it does give those who think Americans are conniving and self-centered fuel for their fire.


In the end, Harry and Meghan will probably be just fine as they get paid for speaking engagements, write a book or 10, and lend their names to causes of their choice. At the same time, one can’t help but feel for Queen Elizabeth. She just wrapped up the scandal surrounding son Prince Andrew who was stripped of his official duties after his dealings with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein were revealed, and now this. But this Queen, who is 93-years-old and the world’s longest reigning monarch, has withstood and outlasted wars, scandals, and countless world leaders.  I’m pretty sure she and the monarchy will survive two millennials hanging up their crowns and moving on.







Preschools and Nursing Homes: A Match Made in Heaven? January 11, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:41 pm

You could say I have the best of both worlds: my job of choice is teaching three-year-olds at our church and I’m blessed to still have my mom around, albeit she’s going to be 90 this fall and is showing signs of aging. My students keep me young but my mom keeps me worried. I am not alone in the latter, as it’s something people of my generation are facing left and right. Considering the fact that more and more people have or are moving away from home, nursing homes seem to be the only alternative for many a senior and with two income families more and more the norm, preschools and day cares are as big of a booming business as extended living facilities.


So, what if the two were combined? Sound crazy? Read on…


A monthly activity our school does that touches upon this concept is a couple of classes visit with and sing for our parish’s respite group, which is devoted to people with dementia. It’s amazing how much our little buddies love this early dose of “community service” and it’s inspiring how much their audience gets out of it too.


The concept of integrating preschoolers with the elderly is one that is growing and is partially thanks to Shimada Masaharu of Japan who in 1976 combined a nursery school with a nursing home. Today this type of genius integrated care can be found all across Japan as well as in Canada and the U.S. and should really come as no surprise as the Japanese are widely recognized for respectfully taking good care of elderly family members.


It’s also a win-win on so many levels.


Research shows that intergenerational programs and interaction boost energy and memory retention in seniors and build empathy, future civic engagement, and increased academic skills in kids. Amazingly, it also lowers feelings of isolation and depression in both age groups.


By combining child care with senior care, children provide the energy and social interaction so often lacking in nursing homes, while seniors offer the love and attention so often lacking in today’s busy homes.


Let’s first look at how kids benefit.


Just Kidding Around

First and foremost is the fact that little ones learn that old people are, well, just people. It’s common for preschoolers to feel a bit uncomfortable around anyone elderly except maybe their grandmas and grandpas, so by spending fun and quality time with seniors, they are less likely to view them as incompetent, they learn to be sympathetic to their needs and challenges, and they stop thinking about old people as strange or intimidating.


It doesn’t end there.


Toddlers who regularly see seniors in wheelchairs or walkers become more accepting and compassionate of peers using the same equipment. Disabilities are a common site but assisting those with them becomes comfortable. Little ones love to be “helpers” and planting early seeds of helping hands and hearts results in grown up gardens of good manners and intentions.


This important learning activity also helps fight the growing trend of ageism, a type of discrimination based on age. We live in a culture that worships youth and all things “fight your age,” so taking steps to end this way of thinking at an early age is good for all of society as whole. By having preschoolers interact with senior citizens who aren’t necessarily family members, you encourage considering them as people with a wealth of knowledge and experiences to learn from. This is said to result in grown up preschoolers who view their elders with more respect and empathy and the improvement of their social and personal development at the same time. What’s not to love?


Aging Gracefully and Gratefully

For the elderly, the benefits are just as impressive. Regardless of how high-end and caring a skilled nursing facility bills itself, residents are often lonely and isolated. Senior loneliness is a serious and growing matter but fighting off said loneliness is a difficult battle. Enter little ones.


That dreaded loneliness is diminished even in small doses as toddlers bring their own brand of energy and laughter to a nursing home and its residents. Intergenerational engagement has a way of returning life to a senior’s world and brings them back to the world of living. Boredom is also reduced, as the shared proficiency and ability level between the two age groups of arts-and-crafts, music, and literacy is somewhat equal so activities that are attractive and doable to both are easy to come by. The benefits of this are two-fold.


As we age we become stiff and incapable of doing many physical tasks. We also suffer from many aches and pains and disabilities. These result in seniors being less and less active, which exacerbates all of these woes. But, being surrounded by a group of toddlers brings fun, joy, and movement into their lives, which have mental and physical benefits.  In toddler talk, they’re happy and feel a part of something that’s fun!


Have you ever spent much time with a three-year-old? If so, you know they have boundless energy and curiosity and move and play with an energy not found in any other age group. They are also very convincing and persuasive and before you know it, you’re doing something you had no intention of doing. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes? Get those bodies moving! Itsy, bitsy, spider? Great hand-eye coordination. The Wheels on the Bus? Boost that memory and repetition!


Kids are also entirely non-judgmental and open minded. We as adults often get frustrated and sad when dealing with someone with dementia and their unpredictability, endless questions, and mood swings. These things don’t bother a toddler one bit. In fact, they ask endless questions and are so unpredictable! They love repeating things and to them someone who asks the same things again and again just seems normal.


Sometimes just having someone to talk to is all the elderly crave and they seem to really open up with children in ways they don’t with fellow adults. In care facilities, seniors are surrounded mainly by other seniors, which leaves them feeling secluded and out of touch with younger generations. This is not good.


Study after study reveal a distinct link between social interaction and decreased loneliness as well as lower blood pressure, delayed mental decline, and a reduced risk of disease and death in the elderly. One Japanese study found that socializing across generations increased smiling and conversation among older adults. Call it child-like wonder. Call it Japanese tradition. Call it brilliant.


So why don’t we see more of this novel idea of combining elderly and child care? As Penn State University professor of Intergeneration Programs and Aging told “The Atlantic,” it’s a case of red tape and regulation.


“The institutionalization and bureaucracy of care homes tend to limit their ability to create opportunities and policies tend to be rigid,” he says. “How you spend your time and where you spend it is all regulated.”


Well, maybe we should rethink some policies and programs and focus on what truly benefits multiple and diverse generations. Embracing the idea of care communities of shared space between elderly and preschoolers has thus far proved to be a good one although issues like communicable diseases, allergies, liability, and facing death are still being studied.


Staff Benefits

There is yet one more advantage of the shared facility idea, that of retaining dependable workers. It’s no secret that work at a skilled nursing facility can be stressful and demanding but by providing quality child care on site for staff members, management is seeing a workplace renaissance regarding quality and loyalty. Ironically, many senior home staffers are of the age where they are caring for elderly parents while raising kids of their own.


Maybe it’s all just meant to be but maybe “if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Maybe it’s somewhere in between and worth a closer and compassionate look. All that’s at stake are generations.




Embrace the Rat in You January 1, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:42 pm

Happy New Year, Happy 2020, and Happy Year of the Rat.


If you read my post yesterday, you learned that 2020 is the official Year of the Rat in the Chinese New Year. According to Chinese legend, every year brings with it an animal and this year’s is the rat. If you were born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, or 2020, it’s your year! I’m one of those so I’m officially a rat (insert jokes here.) I’m not thrilled about this and would have preferred the dog, but it is what it is as you have no choice so I’m rolling with the punch lines and sharing all.


So what exactly does all this mean?


As I wrote yesterday, traditionally your zodiac year is one of bad luck but as luck would have it, it is believed 2020 will be reasonably good for all us rats. On that note, let’s dive…um dig…right in.


The Rat is the first of all zodiac animals and in Chinese culture they are seen as a sign of wealth and surplus. And, because of their high reproduction rate, married couples often pray to them for children. Go figure, right?


So who are the Rats among us and what traits do we share?


First off, rats are considered clever, quick thinkers, resourceful, and are said to have good judgement. They are often optimistic and energetic and are sensitive to other’s emotions and feelings. Rats tend to be happiest when living a quiet and peaceful life but thanks to their strong intuition they easily adapt to new environments. Rats also have rich imaginations, sharp observation, and a strong curiosity. So far, so good in my case.


On the downside, rats can tend to be hot-tempered (my husband calls it my “Latin temper”), envious of others, lack of courage, and can be overly cautious. They are also very picky, have narrow minds, and are stubborn with their opinions. Ouch. People of the Rat zodiac sign are usually night owls and like to sleep late, which make sense since rodents in general, are nocturnal. Check. Check. Check.


Photo courtesy Maggie Barton

Men and women rats differ. Women born in a Rat year are traditionally traditional. They love keeping things organized and place a high value on family and loyalty. They are women with a strong sense of responsibility and are someone you can rely on. Yep, that’s all me.


Men who are rats (again, insert joke here) are creative and have great ideas but sometimes lack courage to get things done and put those ideas in play. Sounds like they need a rat woman, right? Actually, no.


Chinese zodiac animals that rats are most compatible with are the ox, dragon, rabbit, and monkey. My husband in a pig (again, joke), so what does that mean? Well good thing we didn’t go by this train of thought and I’ll wager my 34 years of marriage in argument to this concept.


Because of their independence and imagination rats are best suitable for creative jobs. They bring to the table good insight and sharp perspective and tend to be serious about their work. In a job, rats are great team members, are meticulous, and pay close attention to detail. Hello rats, my name is Carla and that’s me.


So, the best careers for rats are authors, editors, artists, administrators/managers/directors, entrepreneurs, broadcasters, writers, musicians, politicians, lawyers, researchers, engineers, architects, and get this…race car drivers or stand-up comedians! Let’s see, author/editor/broadcaster/writer I’ve all done, I love to “manage” and research, politics fascinate me, and I can argue till the cows or lawyers come home. But, I don’t have the courage to be an entrepreneur, can’t play one instrument, don’t have the math skills to be an engineer or architect, and both race car driving or standing up in front of a crowd scare me to death. I do think I’m funny though!


Financially, we rats are savers and love hoarding things, as my husband will attest to. It’s what rats do, right??? When it comes to money this year, rats should save and invest as it’s predicted their finances will boom all year. Still, if you are a rat, avoid spending money on luxury items and needless trips and instead focus on small, more meaningful items and experiences.


Health-wise, rats tend to have frail health and tire quickly. Thankfully, they rarely get serious illnesses but ailments like the common cold are common. For a healthy life, rats should always eat a good breakfast, lots of proteins, and veggies; add vitamins to their diets; do moderate exercise on a regular basis; and try to remain cheerful and positive. Sounds like good advice to everyone if you ask me.


In 2020, a rat’s health and relationships may struggle so it’s advised you see a doctor at the first sign of illness and work toward creating loving and healthy relationships. Married couples should not let petty arguments and disagreements fester and instead deal with them head on. If you’re a single rat, romance may be hard to come by in 2020 so you should enjoy your single-dom and embrace your independence.


Apparently much of this not only pertains to me and all you fellow rats, but also to Princes Charles and Harry, JFK, Shakespeare, Mozart, George Washington, Mandy Moore of “This Is Us” fame, and Truman Capote…all of which I proudly claim as fellow rats. Sadly, Eminem, Katy Perry, Ben Affleck, and Katy Perry are also rats…which I literally and figuratively agree with!


But I digress.


With each zodiac animal comes specific elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), and energies (yin or yang). My element is metal and my energy is yang. Metal rats tend to be reliable and prefer a stable life but it’s the Yin and the Yang theory that fascinates me most.


Photo courtesy Alan Thornton

It’s common to hear someone say “he’s the yin to my yang,” but it’s also likely to have no idea what that means. The Yin-Yang principle is the best known of all Chinese philosophies. It basically says that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. Yin seeks balance between to alternatives and is generally positive, while Yang can tend to be negative and dark if not checked and balanced. One is not better than the other though, as there is both good and bad in both and each has their flaws and virtues.


If you are a rat, your lucky colors are blue, gold, and green while your lucky numbers are 2 and 3. I love that our lucky flowers are lilies and African violets, as Easter lilies are my favorite flowers. You might want to steer clear of yellow and brown and the numbers 5 and 9, as they are considered unlucky for rats.


So what have I learned from all this? First off, I’m amazed that many of the traits of rats fit me to a T and that many of the suggested careers include my chosen ones.


What about you? Do any of them match you and are yin to your yang?


In any case, this exercise is really all in fun for me and as we face a new year and a new decade, I like what Courtney Carver of “Be More with Less” suggested when she wrote:


“Your gift today is reflection. Carve out time to retreat and reflect. It seems so natural this time of year to get lost in planning all the things you want to do so for today, put the planning on pause and gently review the passing year. The point of this is not to cause regret or guilt or even a pat on the back. Instead, it’s an opportunity to be a witness and to acknowledge a year in your very special life.”


Your one beautiful life. Savor it. Celebrate it.