Beyond Words

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

Horoscoping It Out March 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:29 pm


I saw the above witty meme this week in the midst of all the gloom and doom, and despite the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found it and some other humorous ones a nice break from the darkness. I also found it timely, as a few weeks ago some co-workers and I (back when we were going to work) were talking about our astrological signs and were amazed to discover that our signs often matched our personalities.


I’ve been wanting to blog about this subject but it seemed a little insensitive or superfluous considering the times, but after seeing the above, I thought, “why not?” We all need a daily brain drain, so let this be it as we take a brief break from the Corona Virus news and sit back with some other “CV” news: Capricorns and Virgos…along with all the other signs.


When researching for this blog, I turned to none other than the American Federation of Astrologers, which was founded in 1938. According to the AFA, Babylonians are generally credited with the birth of astrology. They used astrological charts to predict seasons and celestial events and for more than 2,000 years astrology and astronomy were considered the same science.


Babylonia astrology was introduced to the Greeks in the early 4th century BC and through the studies of Plato, Aristotle, and others, it became a highly regarded science and was soon embraced by the Romans whose zodiacal signs are still used today. Let’s look at them.



Do these apply to you according to your sign? I am a Taurus and many of its traits most definitely apply to me. Yep, I don’t like change but will do what’s necessary, often underestimate myself, appreciate honesty and truth, am stubborn, and tend to stay true to myself and to myself.



Again, pretty much me to a T, which may explain why I’m fairly comfortable with all this “social distancing” and #stayhome orders. Sadly, my zodiac sign gives no comfort for worry or anxiety, which is totally messing with my control issues.


How about you? Are all you Libras idea driven but detached emotionally? Scorpios, are you able to read people and are protective and compassionate? Do any of you read your daily horoscopes?



Those could actually be “Top 10 Signs to Spot Carla,” as all 10 describe me spot on. As I said, I’m stubborn as an ox (or bull?) but I’m also very reliable, loyal, and hard-working. I cannot stand anything fake or phony, love to learn, and I don’t put up with much BS; unless perhaps if food or something “fine” is involved! If you don’t believe me, ask my husband.


He is a Leo and is yes, intense, direct, strong, tough, not fond of clingy people, gets things done quickly and in a “no nonsense” manner, but is more giving and forgiving than one would think. Our daughter is also a Taurus. I went into labor on my birthday and she was born the next day at 3:30 in the morning. So, I like to say my hubby thinks he’s the Lion and king of the jungle, but he lives/lived with two Taurus females so there’s really no bull as to who truly rules the roost, right?



Fittingly given the current state of affairs, earliest astrology was used to bring a sense of order out of chaos and was used to predict weather patterns for agricultural and other purposes. It was eventually broadened to include forecasts of natural disasters, wars, and other catastrophic events.


So let’s see, COVID-19 was first brought to our attention in Wuhan, China in December 2019, right? That would put it under either Sagittarius or Capricorn, depending on the exact date, which we will probably never really know.


Sagittarius is a fire sign while Capricorn is an earth sign. Yeah, pretty sure fire has rained down on planet earth by way of a highly contagious virus; a virus that is truly stubborn and remains somewhat of a mystery like earth signs and intense and strong like fire signs. But this is just my thinking and I’m no astrologer or astronomer; although my science of choice in college was Astronomy!


The word “zodiac” was derived from the Greek word for “circle of animals” and its meanings and signs are believed to have been developed in ancient Egypt and later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers knew it took 12 lunar cycles/months for the sun to return to its original position. They then identified 12 constellations linked to the the seasons and assigned them names of animals and people.


Each of these signs have assigned dates of birth for each person, which are:


Horoscopes, which I won’t go into, are short forecasts for people born under a particular sign and based on the positions of stars and planets at the time of that person’s birth. The word “horoscope” is derived from the Greek words “ora” and “scopos,” which mean “time” and “observer.”


I am not a big believer in horoscopes but I’m forever amazed at how often the traits of one’s astrological/zodiac sign match their personality traits. Many think of astrology as superstitious and without any scientific basis, but whatever yours or my thoughts are, its popularity is stronger than ever today. Maybe people are searching for meaning and direction or maybe they’re just looking to find a deeper meaning of themselves and their lives.




How about me? I don’t lean on horoscopes or astrology to guide me, but I can’t argue with the fact that I’m all of the above and I own them all. I’m passionate, extremely observant, a deep thinker, and actually enjoy a little argument or debate as long as they’re not personal and are constructive. Provoke me however, and I might explode. My husband calls it “that Spanish anger.” Hmmm, come to think of it Spaniards love their bulls and their bullfights. Ole!









We Are All Carriers March 22, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:29 pm

Well, spring has officially arrived but doesn’t it feel like the earth is truly wrapped in life does it? Death and near death are broadcast 24-7. And for the most part, for good reason. But have we lost some sense of reason too? I sit here almost hesitant and anxious to write this today, but I feel a calling and am hoping it will be therapeutic for me. And for you.



I started the day reading the calendar daily devotion at the top of this blog, which ironically is right next to the above little sign about faith, as I do every day when I brush my teeth but today’s message kinda hit me hard. The earth feels so covered in death as we all anxiously await an awakening of epic proportions while we suffer through a pandemic of epic proportions. How then, do we keep the faith and keep from going crazy as we hunker down and social distance?



My husband and I started the day like we have the past several “groundhog days” by having our coffee and eggs but it all seemed a little gloomy and monotonous today. Then we went online and live streamed our parish’s mass and by simply listening to Fathers Michael and Jared lead their virtual congregation we were both peacefully moved. No looking around at who’s in that pew, what we’re wearing, or what we have to do after mass, but rather just sitting with closed eyes and open hearts in our pajamas in our house. Be still God told us, and we were. It was probably one of the most moving masses I can remember. And I wasn’t even there.


God also told us “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them” and I remembered that we don’t go to church, we are the church. My husband and I were the church today, dogs and all. (St. Francis would be so happy!)


As God would have it, today’s gospel reading was John 9 in which Jesus heals a man who was born blind. In his sermon, Father Michael acknowledged the fact that we probably all shuttered as he read that Jesus spit on the ground to make a mud paste, which He then rubbed on the man’s eyes. Spit! Just hearing the word sends corona virus chills down our backs, right? But it was Jesus’ spit and is probably the spit this world needs more of right now.


Father Michael then talked about how perhaps we all need to “open” our eyes. Open them to what’s important and to our blessings, even among today’s despair. Later, I read something right along these lines that shook me.



It said that perhaps 2020 is the year God made for us to open our eyes. Much like during previous plagues, God maybe has taken away everything we worship. Perhaps He’s telling us, “You want to worship athletes, I will shut down stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down concert halls. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theatres. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it so you can’t go to church.” Yowzah, right?


Funny thing is, I’ve seen more people praying and more praying on social media then I ever have. I don’t know why this virus is happening and I certainly don’t have the answers on how to stop it, but I am hoping part of its healing will be to miraculously bring this country together. Maybe we don’t need a vaccine as much as we need a cure for all the hate and division out there. Hate is contagious and it’s spreading like wildfire out there. Can’t we just put all of it aside and spread love instead?



What we also need more of is hope. After watching mass this morning, I listened to Pastor Craig of Oklahoma City’s Life Church, recommended by a college friend. His message? We are all carriers. What? No! But that’s why we’re staying home; to not become carriers. Relax. His message is much more powerful than that.


Yes, he tells us, we are all carriers. Carriers of faith and hope. Love and charity. With all the gloom and doom out there, let’s do our best to be spreaders of faith, dealers of hope, and givers of love. Fear is so very contagious, but so is good news and the concept of enduring hope. I get it, we are all feeling anxious, worried, and discouraged. I’m right there with you. Our lives are surrounded by warnings and chaos. People are dying and daily staples are suddenly luxuries. Finding hope or any semblance of peace is challenging at best. So how, then, can we find hope in the chaos?


It very well might not be a return to normal as Pastor Craig so eerily cautioned. Why? Because the previous what we call “normal” maybe wasn’t so great. Yes, it was comfortable, but it was also self-absorbed, hurried, misguided, immoral, and spiritually lukewarm. Lucky for us, Jesus did not come for the righteous or the perfect; He came for the rejected and imperfect. The imperfect and misguided ones. Like you and me.


It’s no secret this country has been in a very imperfect and misguided state long before COVID-19 attacked us. The two sides of the proverbial aisle are so far apart they may never try to make their way to the middle much less meet there. Hate has overtaken disagreement and blame is the game all those haters love to play. Again, maybe this crisis will bring us all together. We did it after 9/11 so I’m hoping we can do it again. We must do it again now. People are losing their lives, their jobs, and their loved one and yet we’re attacking and arguing over what words we use to call this virus?  News flash people: This is your wake-up call as this virus doesn’t care if you’re republican or democrat, black or white, male or female, rich or poor. We shouldn’t either.



Instead, let’s listen to an 80-year-old man a friend posted about who she ran into in the grocery store and asked if he needed anything, to which he responded: “Let me tell you what I need. I need to believe in this country my generation fought for. I need to believe in this nation we handed safely to our children and hope their children will respect what they’ve been given. I was a little boy during WWII. Those were scary days. We rationed and no home went without sacrifice or loss. We didn’t know if we were going to be speaking English, German or Japanese at the end of the war. There was no certainty, no guarantees like Americans enjoy today. But we persevered and we overcame. We didn’t attack our president, we came together. We were in it to win it.” We should all open our eyes and ears to this humble man. An American man. We may never truly understand the sacrifices he and others made, but we can learn from them and respect them.



So today as you begrudgingly walk the rooms of your homes for yet another day and post on social media, ask yourself if what you’re carrying is worth catching. Are you spreading hate, criticism, and fear, or are you spreading faith, hope, and love even where and when everyone is afraid? Don’t hoard; share and think of others. Stay inside, don’t complain. Again, I get it. It’s more than likely going to get worse before it gets better. This will be hard for me for sure. I’m the queen of worrying and overreacting but at least for today, I will try my hardest to have and to spread a hope no virus can kill. Will you join me?


Feathering Our Nests March 19, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:03 pm

Our nation and world are topsy-turvy places right now. Anxiety is up and social interaction is down. But there’s hope, and one sign of that is that spring is officially here! Amid all the chaos, happy first day of spring! It’s the season of rebirth and renewal and we all need a little of both right now, am I right? So, as we nest and stay home to “flatten the curve,” you could say spring couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as we have the time to look around our homes for ways to see light and being outside is one of the only “safe” activities being allowed.  And yes, I get it, home décor may seem trivial right now, but it can give us joy and for me, writing this provides something to pour myself into as I sit home and social distance.



            Southern Living

So, let’s all take just a moment or two to lighten up. Your home that is. And, what better way to lighten and brighten up our homes than to add a little wicker, rattan, cane, and other woven wonders of your choosing? And don’t think they’re just for porches and patios, as every room in your home needs a little texture and wovens and weaves are just the places to look whether it’s in a large sofa or headboard or a small basket, stool, and even lighting.



I am admittedly somewhat old school and still love me some mahogany and Queen Ann chairs, but I also love the look of a neutral woven.  I recently purchased a round front entry rug similar to one pictured below and chose woven shades for some of our windows in our home when we built it…and I love them! Best of all, all of these items don’t have to break the bank and can be as simple as the above Pottery Barn seagrass tray or the very affordable Target items also pictured above.


If you’re like me though, it’s easy to get confused as terms for the different versions are as interwoven and overlapping as the products themselves. What is wicker, what’s rattan, and what’s everything else? I’ve had time at home to research and read up, dig and decipher and even though I’m not 100 percent clear on it all, here’s what I’ve found:


First off, let’s start right off by decoding rattan and wicker. Rattan is a material and wicker is a style of weave. For example, a piece of furniture might be composed of rattan but embellished with a wicker-style weave design.





(left: Serena and Lily)

Rattan is actually the name for 600 species of fast-growing climbing palms, not a furniture style. The vine-like palm species that is rattan is a fast-growing tropical plant whose woody stems can be cut into sections and shaped into pretty much anything. Its softer inner-core is the part that’s woven and worked into wicker weaves. Indonesia is home to two-thirds of the world’s rattan population and rattan cane is what polo mallets are traditionally made from.











Rattan items pictured above: Mainly Baskets scalloped ottoman, Palecek barstools and chairs, Ballard Designs hanging basket, Serena and Lily daybed and bar cart, and Williams Sonoma stool





(left: Pier 1)

The broad-reaching term “wicker” refers to a technique not so much a product. The method uses pliant plants like rattan and weaves them into a pattern. Yes rattan is the most common natural material used in wicker pieces but other plants and fibers, including bamboo, willow, and abaca as well as synthetic materials, can all be used.


When most of us think interwoven furniture and home décor, we probably think of wicker; especially white wicker. I actually love white wicker and in a previous home I had an entire guest room of it. Yep, that old-school Florida beach bungalow retirement home meets ‘70s girl’s room bright white wicker. I gotta say though, I loved it and it worked well in the room. But, when it came time to move, it didn’t make the cut. I still like white wicker but today’s wicker is more natural and earthy looking.


The timeless stuff can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt, was a popular staple in Victorian England, and the Pilgrims are said to have brought a wicker cradle to America on the Mayflower. But, despite its beachy associations, the word “wicker” has Scandinavian origins as the word “vika” means to bend and “vikker” means willow.


What we love about wicker is that it’s light and breezy yet sturdy. It tends to relax any room you put it in and if you use the right piece, it can also add a bit bohemian chic through pieces like a ‘70s-inspired egg chair.  If using wicker outside and unprotected from sun and rain, stick with a wicker piece made with synthetic fibers, while covered outdoor areas or anywhere inside are the perfect spots for natural wicker. Lee Radziwill, the chic and stylish sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, loved it so much she was buried in a wicker casket. I’d put money on it that it wasn’t white wicker though.


Wicker items pictured above: Ballard Designs swinging sconce, One Kings Lane collection, Target egg chair, Amish Baskets dog bed





Cane is generally any plant with a long, thin stem and the version used in furniture is derived from rattan. It is not sugar cane or bamboo, which is sometimes erroneously called “cane.” Made up of woven, durable, and nonporous strips, caning became popular is 1600s England and successfully competed with the already popular upholstered pieces. Chair caning is a method of weaving  when rattan cane or rattan peel is applied to furniture, most commonly the seats or backs of chairs and in chair repair.


When thinking of cane, think those open-weave seated café chairs popularized in Paris but also found in kitchens and eating areas the world over. Thonet’s “No. 14” wicker-seated bentwood bistro chair, pictured above left, may have well started the trend and became the world’s first mass-produced furniture item in 1859. In the 1970s Marcel Breuer brought the style back and in a big way with these little gems that today are mid-century modern favorites:

None other than Marie-Antoinette was also a fan, and her caned chair is on display at the Getty Center in L.A. Today you’ll find it on everything from those famous chairs to mirrors, lampshades, and tables.


Cane items pictured above: World Market tiered tower, Target chest, Pier 1 light pendants, Bobila platform bed





This grass-like material is also sometimes called Bulrush, is generally made of dried cattails, is green in its natural state and can take up to one year to change into its warm golden tone. It is commonly used in woven chair seating like ladder-back chairs, which provide both a clean Shaker design and country farmhouse feel in urban and rural settings alike.  The most famous rush chair is considered the one that made a cameo in the 1953 Marilyn Monroe film “How to Marry a Millionaire” designed by T.H. Robsjoh-Gibbings. Renditions of it can be found at the L.A. boutique Hollywood at Home like the one at left.




Rush items pictured above: Antique Country French chairs, seated bench, and seat





(left: Ballard Designs)

When I think raffia, I think gift wrapping embellishment or maybe wreaths and I bet you do too, but the product can also be incorporated into beautiful furniture and home decor. Raffia fibers are made from the veins of raffia palm trees and can be easily dyed and woven. It’s most commonly used in grass cloth wallcoverings, garden ties, and decorative string but if you’re looking for a very clean woven look, raffia is the way to go.











Raffia items pictured above: Daggett baskets, Tommy Bahama Home chest, Serene Spaces Living chargers, Kathy Kuo Home chest, Ballard Designs sideboard






(left: Lelands Wallpaper)

Grasscloth is an umbrella term commonly used to describe wallcovering made from hand-woven strands of natural fibers of the inner bark of the ramie plant on an unpasted rice paper backing. The fibers include hemp, jute, sea grass, arrowroot grass, bamboo and raffia. It is very popular in the décor and design industry and one reason may be that it resembles linen, no two pieces are alike, and it is both beautiful and delicate








(left: Target)

Other materials extremely popular are jute, sisal, and coir particularly as natural fiber rugs. Jute is grown in the Indian subcontinents of Bengal and Bangladesh while Sisal is a natural fiber from the agave plant. Coir (pronounced coy-ur) is a natural fiber extracted from the outer husk of a coconut. Although the three look very much alike, Sisal is considered stronger and more durable while Jute is the smoother of the three. Both are very neutral additions to any room and can be played up by placing a more vibrant or patterned rug on top.


Sisal is a preferred material for carpet and rugs and is also used for rope and twine. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is the fiber used to make burlap, hessian, or gunny cloth. It is also popular for rugs and is second only to cotton in the amount produced and variety of uses. To clarify, burlap is a very strong and course cloth made from jute, flax, or hemp and is what those famous gunny sacks are made of.


As for those front doormats many of you probably have on your porch right now, odds are they are made of coir, which is also a popular brush and mattress material. It is known for its durability, strength, and water absorption. But telling you this is like preaching to the “coir,” right?


 Pictured above: Decor Pad jute and sisal rugs and stock photo coir doormat                        




Visual Comfort


I hope this small diversion from social distancing and media watching finds you and your family safe and healthy in your homes. Enjoy those homes and families and be grateful for them. And, as you nest, think about this thought I read on one my favorite bloggers and author’s, “The Nester,” site:  “One question I’ve asked myself about this unique time in our history is, when I look back on this time, what will I wish I would have done? And then, I try to do that thing.”






Water, Water Everywhere March 15, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:59 pm

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” John 4:7


Water. You could say it’s one of many buzzwords making the rounds these days. Wash your hands. Drink lots of water. Wash things often. We are drowning in all things water!


We’re also drowning in COVID-19 corona virus news.  One piece of advice I’ve seen posted everywhere on social media recommends gargling with salt water to prevent the virus’ germs from sitting dangerously in your throat. No, this isn’t a corona virus blog, so stay with me.


In support of this, I recently received a text from a wise and trusted friend with this tip and several others that reportedly came from a Stanford Hospital Board internal message. In the message, I read we should all make sure our mouths and throats are moist and never dry and we should be taking sips of water at least every 15 minutes. This, it said, is because drinking water and other liquids may wash the virus down our throats and into our stomachs, where stomach acid will kill the virus. If you don’t drink enough water, it warned, the virus can enter your windpipe and then your lungs, which is very dangerous. It also went on to say drinking warm water is more effective and to not drink liquids with ice.


All this made me curious so I checked it out. Although most sites claim there’s no evidence that the gargling trick can help ward off COVID-19, I’m of the thinking it probably couldn’t hurt and drinking lots of water is always recommended, right?


How water can and is proven to help is by using it to wash your hands! That’s been the key mantra during this whole corona crisis but how distressing is it that it’s something we should have all been doing this whole time? We all know the drill and yet sadly it takes a crisis to convince the masses.



When I read today’s gospel I couldn’t help but think “timely” and “prophetic” as it dealt with water. Today’s reading from John is what many of us know as “The woman at the well.” In short, Jesus comes across a Samaritan woman at a water well and asks her for a drink, which shocks the woman as Jews at that time would never approach a Samaritan. In the end, the woman walks away believing that Jesus is the living water and whoever drinks the water will never thirst.



We are all thirsting right now, whether it be for COVID-19 to become a thing of the past as quickly as it became our present or other woes and hopes that have nothing to do with today’s current events. Science teaches us that without water, life is not possible. The church teaches us that through the saving waters of Baptism we are reborn and every time we enter a Catholic church, we bless ourselves with healing holy water. The Bible too is full of water references in addition to the one in today’s gospel, including Jesus walking on water, the parting of the Red Sea,  Moses striking the rock and water springing from it, the turning of water into wine, the washing of feet, many stories of fishing and fishermen, and even Noah and Jonah, among many, many others.


Water is indeed spiritually beneficial but also physically beneficial. Staying hydrated is healthy and smart yet many of us don’t drink enough fluids each day. Think about this: adult human bodies are around 60 percent water, our blood is 90 percent water, and more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. In other words, water is a big deal!



I personally know just how “big” water is as my daughter makes a living in the water industry. We are a family that’s awash in all things water and value it perhaps more than many.  But, we should all value water, as all human cells and organs need it to function properly. Niagara Water might be what she sells, but the other Niagara, as in Niagara Falls, has quite a bit of power itself.  The Falls aren’t just spectacular to look at and popular tourist destinations; they are real power powerhouses, providing electricity to much of New York State and parts of Canada, including enough power for nearly 4 million homes. So yes, water is powerful and the benefits of it are oh-so-big as well, including:



  • It lubricates our joints. Cartilage contains around 80 percent water and long-term dehydration reduces the joints’ shock-absorbing ability, leading to joint pain.
  • By drinking water instead of sugary drinks, we can prevent tooth decay.
  • It boosts skin health, which when dehydrated, can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
  • It cushions the brain and if dehydrated, our brain structure and functioning abilities are affected. Prolonged dehydration can lead to problems with thinking and reasoning.
  • It regulates our body temperature through sweat as we heat up and it evaporates to cool us down, all beneficial during exercise.
  • Our digestive system depends on it and the bowel needs it to work properly. If you don’t drink enough water, you may suffer from digestive problems, constipation, an acidic stomach, heartburn, and stomach ulcers. It goes without saying that water is needed to flush out urine and feces.
  • Our lungs and airways need it as water loss can worsen asthma and allergies.
  • It helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and a lack of it can cause the blood to become thicker, resulting in increased blood pressure.
  • It makes minerals and nutrients dissolve faster and better, thereby reaching the parts of our bodies they are intended to benefit.
  • It prevents kidney damage as kidneys regulate fluid in the body. Insufficient water can lead to kidney stones and other problems.
  • It is beneficial in weight loss by preventing overeating and creating a sense of fullness.



So, there’s the 411 on the bodily benefits of water, but what great imagery water provides the mind and spirit as well. Close your eyes and imagine ocean waves crashing on shore, rain hitting the roof, or the gurgling of a river or stream. And how refreshing it is to take a dip into a pool, lake, or ocean? I also can’t help but think of my annual “Polar Plunge” on New Year’s Day. The wetness we feel is so invigorating but ultimately we do dry off.



Sometimes our hearts run dry as well, so maybe while we’re all taking more time to wash our hands, we should also take more time to drink in faith and let it overflow into this crazy and chaotic world. Sounds like a refreshing idea to me.





Behind Every Great Woman is Herself March 8, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:17 pm

Happy International Women’s Day! If you didn’t know this was the day to celebrate women around the world, then you obviously haven’t been online or watched any TV because it is everywhere. I’m here to celebrate women right along with the masses, but exactly who and what are we celebrating?



Are we celebrating the fact that in the U.S. women have more rights and privileges than many other worldwide and that we are pretty doggone blessed?


Are we celebrating the #metoo movement and the fact that the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are behind bars?


Are we celebrating all those women before us who paved the way and succeeded on levels many of us only dream about?


Are we celebrating unborn women?


Are we celebrating single moms?


And, are we going to make today a day of true celebrating or are we going to whine about not the good, but the bad and the ugly?


I’m choosing the former.




I posted the above pic on Instagram earlier today as my weekly “Sunday gram” and was shocked to learn later that it is IWD. Divine intervention? I think so.


So let’s talk briefly about Mary and women in the Bible since this blog is running on a Sunday and since…well, just because. As the mother of Jesus, Mary saw it all. She believed, she obeyed, she rejoiced, and she suffered greatly. She is in a way, all moms. But she wasn’t alone in the Bible. Ruth was notoriously faithful and loyal while Esther was known for her bold spirit. Jesus himself included many women in his teachings and preachings, allowed many a female in his inner circle, and even forgave an adulterer. And, let’s not forget that the first witnesses to the Resurrection were women. Yes, as a Catholic I’m fully aware of the criticism that women can’t be priests, but it’s something I can’t control and something I just accept with a faithful heart.



What defines a true strong woman is endlessly debated and actually quite personal. Is it someone who is career driven and speaks her mind? Could be. Is it a stay-at-home mom who relishes her role as keeper of the fam? Could be too. Is it a woman who loves motorcycles but happens to wear a helmet made of mirror sequence? You bet! In short, it’s really a woman who makes sound choices based on her beliefs and morals and lives a respectable life that benefits both her and those she comes in contact with.



I can’t write this blog without bringing up a few controversial topics though so here goes. First is the term “feminist.” For me, it has such a one-sided and almost confrontational connotation that I don’t and can’t attach it to what benefits women as a whole. Next, the #metoo movement. Yes, I’m all for women not having to put up with any harassment in the workplace but I also question all those women who for years stayed silent (as many of their careers boomed I might add) about the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner. Why would such a supposed strong woman like Huma Abedin stay with Weiner for years despite his obvious flaws? Perhaps we need look no further than her former boss, Hillary Clinton, who was similarly repeatedly and publicly humiliated but did the exact same thing. I don’t get it and never will. And before you call the equal sides police, I also don’t appreciate many of President Trump’s past comments about women or anyone who thinks the right female should not ever be president.



Along these same lines and something that might make some of you stop reading right here, is the fact that I admire and respect the strong and accomplished Ivanka Trump. I’ve liked her for years and long before her dad was president. I liked that she, despite being born into the family she was, was never in the tabloids partying with the likes of her age contemporaries like Paris Hilton. Instead, she was graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s in economics from none other than The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and creating a business of her own. I’ll never forget reading that during a major international leadership conference, a highly accomplished attendee was asked who impressed him the most and he said Ivanka, in that he had never witnessed such impressive negotiating skills. Hate her politics and hate her dad, but c’mon ladies, admit she’s one smart and strong cookie. And not that it matters, but how stylish is she too? As they say, you can’t argue with good kids.



Which brings me to Taylor Swift, who is not a Trump fan and probably not a fan of his daughter either but who IMHO is a strong and talented woman. I’m not a fan of everything she says or does, but I am a fan of her musical talents and the fact that she famously writes songs about her weaknesses and brokenness. I especially liked an interview I saw with her on “CBS Sunday Morning” during which she commented on the different social expectations of men and women. “When men think something out, it’s called being strategic but when women think something out, it’s called calculating. Men are said to react but women are often considered overreacting.” Bingo Ms. Swift. Nicely said.


Sports are another arena where strong women often prevail. I love sports and I love a good competitor but I don’t like or respect any athlete or team member that bashes the very country they play for or insult anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I love that females are today found on football sidelines, press boxes, and officiating crews, but I don’t respect two legit and talented singers literally going low and performing a virtual soft-porn show during the biggest football game’s halftime show.  If you want to be treated like a lady or respected, don’t cry when you go down a disrespectful road and discover that you are merely a sex object. And don’t even get me started about Hollywood.



Instead, maybe be less tease and more Tylene Wilson. Who, you ask? Tylene was a woman in 1940’s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, broke tradition and became a successful female football coach during the war. She’s the subject of Marjorie Herrera Lewis’ fabulous book “When The Men Were Gone” and I highly recommend it.  (Herrera Lewis herself is a strong and impressive woman who has covered sports her whole professional life, even before it was a commonplace and has also coached.) Another book about a strong woman I highly recommend is “In Order to Live” by Yeonmi Park. Maybe read it before you go out and march to complain about how bad you think we have it in America. Hashtag eye opening.



I’ve always loved that quote and it will forever remind me of one of the strongest women I know, my long-time friend Rosie. We vowed to follow the quote’s advice as we raised our daughters and I’m proud to say we both can pat ourselves on the back for doing so. My name is Carla and I’m the proud mom of a strong girl. From day one she was resilient and formidable, and I remember reading the book “The Strong Willed Child” cover-to-cover and over and over.  I read with eyes wide open in that I didn’t want to suppress her strength and stubbornness because I knew they would serve her well down the road, but I also knew I needed to direct them in a healthy way. Yes, be strong, but be smart and a be a lady too. If you don’t act like a lady, please don’t expect any man to treat you as one, right? Respect is earned, not a given. Thankfully today she is flourishing in a male-dominated world and loves football but she’s also a lover of all things fashion and feminine.  It’s a balance we might all strive to perfect.



Strong women can indeed be frilly and feminine and like all things glittery and glam as they make their way to  boardrooms, job sites, or kitchens. Wear that sparkle if you want ladies and wear it with confidence.



One shining example of this is none other than Deshauna Barber who is a former Army Reservist and Miss USA 2016. Talk about balance and the best of both worlds! Some women despise beauty pageants and consider them demeaning, but please don’t tell that to the thousands of young women who have earned scholarship money through them and thousands of others who just like them. Let them like them.



And, hold onto your boot straps, but today’s Barbies are also examples of everything a woman can be. Yes, they were originally thin and so unrealistic, but have you walked down a Barbie store aisle lately? These girls now come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and are everything from chefs to a scientists. If you want a small glimpse of the progress of women, check out Barbies. She’s morped into a real doll!



We as women need to respect all sides of womanhood and build each other up, not judge, try to change each other, or tear each other down. We should also stop trying to be so perfect. No one is perfect. I for one can have the mouth of a sailor and be a bit critical…especially of myself. We also need to maybe not take ourselves so seriously and laugh more. I for one admire a woman with a sense of humor as much as I do a woman with a big bank account or powerful job. Even one of the most powerful women in the world, Queen Elizabeth, is said to possess quite the wit, and with the pressure she’s lived under for nearly 70 years, that is one crowning achievement!



Laugh away ladies, but never forget that it’s also okay to cry. Strong women can be sad and there’s nothing sad about that. Sometimes it’s the challenges in life that make it interesting and the overcoming of them that makes it meaningful. In the end, all those tears and frustrations hopefully also make us wiser, more grateful, and stronger.



So as we celebrate women today, let’s consider what we’re celebrating and what we want to work toward. Yes, we all want to succeed but maybe we need to stop screaming along the way. News flash ladies: none of us are entitled to anything so work away but maybe let that success of yours be the noise others hear. Let’s also today tip our hats and tip our crowns to all the women out there who are living their lives to the fullest in a true and tasteful way as they build and improve themselves, help and nurture others, and both laugh and cry while they do it.






You Name It March 2, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:33 pm

Can you imagine? Wouldn’t THAT be great?! But lo, it’s just an Uber driver who happens to have a very special name. So, what’s in a name?


Our names are everything but do you like your name? Would you pick it today if you had a choice or would you change it to something else? I don’t love my name Carla, I probably wouldn’t pick it today, but I don’t hate it. It’s just kinda meh to me and screams Baby Boomer. I’ve always loved the names Nicole, Jessica, and Spencer (yes, after sweet Lady Diana Spencer) and might opt for one of them, but it’s kinda hard to say. After all, it’s your name!



One name I often use, especially when at Starbucks, is Natasha. Don’t know why other than I’ve long been fascinated with Russia and the former Soviet Union and long before the Dems were.  Starbucks is one place you can play around with names as you can tell them your name is anything (as long as it’s not offensive) and you get to be that person for the moment they call out that your non-fat venti latte is ready. It’s actually quite fun. Try it!


I find it so interesting that names tend to be generational. Today’s kids names (and I speak from experience being that I teach three-year-olds) tend to be either very traditional (Madeline, Natalie, Emily, Jack, Victoria, Gabriel) or anything but (Lennon, Grayson, Colton). Popular with today’s parents also seem to be first names that could also be last names like Maxwell, Carson, Gentry, Connelly, and Cooper as well as gender-neutral names like Riley, Logan, Dylan, and Ryan.


The parents of these little bundles of joy are most often Millennials who are, give or take a birth year or two, my daughter’s age. Hers was the age of Megans and Allisons, Ethans and Evans, Rachels and Lindsays, Caitlyns and Laurens, Matthews and Brians, and a whole lot of boys name Lucas and girls named Grace.


The last one has been around for decades and is quite cross-generational, much like Sarah and Nicolas, both popular Baby Boomer names too. In many ways, you can tell the age someone is simply by their name. My own Baby Boomer generation loved the names Susan, Karen, Lisa, Linda, Donna, Cindy, and Debra for girls and David, Steven, Mark, Christopher, and James for boys. In some ways, many of these more classic names are making a comeback but I’m not sure we’ll ever see many Mildreds or Walters but I do know a young Oliver and Molly.



Millennials pay close attention and put tons of thought into their kids’ names. I’ll never forget my nephew Michael saying “that’s such a Millennial name” when my daughter told him she was dating a boy named Tucker. Bingo. He was so spot on. Michael’s mom put some thought into his name, albeit a different kind. She is my sister and her name is Coral; a beautiful name but one that is forever misspelled and miscalled as Cora or Carol. When naming her two boys, she kept it simple for them by choosing Michael and Andrew. Smart girl.


My own daughter’s name also has an interesting story. Being that my husband quickly nixed Spencer as a name for a boy or a girl, we decided Kelly for a girl and Matthew for a boy. Kelly got punted however when his beloved Buffalo Bills and Quarterback Jim Kelly lost one of their four consecutive Super Bowls that January and he quickly said “pick another name.” I pleaded and reminded him we didn’t chose the name in honor of Mr. Kelly, who BTW has turned out to be one great human and would have made a great namesake, but to no avail. Plan B was needed and Billie was not an option!


She ended up being named for an equally great human, former LPGA winner Kristi Albers, who is a dear friend of ours. The year was 1993 and Kristi had yet to win a tour event so we casually mentioned to her that if we had a girl and if she won a tournament before, we’d use her name somehow. Mere days before our daughter was born, Kristi won the prestigious Sprint Classic and soon after our daughter Kristen was born. I still love telling the story and I love that Kristen’s middle name is my maiden name, Luna, which BTW is a trending first name.



So what are today’s most popular baby names? Most lists come from the Social Security Administration and Nameberry, a site for researching baby names that tracks users’ searches. According to the site, the hottest current names are Austin, Alva, Acacius, Tate, and Diego for boys and Adah, Reese, Mika, Paisley, and Amina for girls. Ellis, Phoenix, Remy, Marlowe, and Shea are listed as the most popular unisex names.


The SSA releases a list of the most popular baby names from the previous year, with the most recent numbers coming from 2018. So, drum roll please…


It’s fun to look at trends in names, with some of the most prevalent being short and sweet ones like Ace and Ella; girls’ names that aren’t traditional girls’ names like Stevie, Tyler, and Billie; pastel and jewel tone names like Gray, Olive, and Sage; using nicknames as full names like Dani, Tori, and Charlie; names that are places like Paris and Austin; and the continued obsession with unisex names. If I had to choose one name in each of these trending categories, they would be Faith for a short and sweet name, Wynn for a non-traditional girl name, Sage for the next category, and “Winnie” as a nickname for Windsor, which could qualify as a place too.



Even in the midst of unisex and unusual names, it’s somewhat comforting that parents can’t totally name their children anything they want. Most states have character limit laws regarding the number of letters for first, middle, and last names as well as laws forbidding derogatory or obscene monikers. In addition, there are also laws requiring names be made up of only characters from the English alphabet and spelled using a standard keyboard. It’s also not uncommon for states to prohibit foreign characters or symbols in American-born babies. The latter, however, is not the case in South Carolina where you can name your Kate “K8” or your Mike “M!ke” as symbols are allowed. I’ve also previously heard that North Dakota prohibits parents from naming a child a numeral while in Pennsylvania a baby (or adult) can’t have a one-letter last name.


Somewhat surprising is the fact the United States is probably one of the most flexible countries regarding offspring naming laws. Many countries, including France, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and a host of others have nationalized lists of accepted names and preapproved names and if a parent seeks to venture off said list, they need to pay a fee and request approval.


Japan is another country with some strict naming laws in that all babies except for royals must have a name and a surname that are easy to read in Japanese. Foreign names that can’t be translated into Japanese are not accepted and names that don’t have adequate meanings for children are not allowed. Similarly in Portugal, parents must choose names for their children that are of Portuguese origin with the exception of Biblical or Christian names and the gender of the name must be easy to understand, which is also the case in many other countries.



I recommend a few other things be considered when choosing your child’s name, including what their initials and monogram will be. A girl named Anna Olivia Hendricks probably won’t like her “AHO” monogram on jewelry, pillowcases, and bags and a boy named Daniel Kent Iglesias will most likely frown upon his “DIK” initials. Think of nicknames too. For example, in a book I just started reading, Richard Russo’s “Bridges of Sighs,” the lead character’s name is Louis Charles Lynch. While taking attendance the first day of kindergarten his teacher called out “Lou C.” and the nickname “Lucy” stuck for the remainder of his life. And in a related and funny story, to this day my husband is called “Haven” by his college buddies because during a class roll call his elderly professor had a hard time deciphering my hubby’s bad handwriting of “Steven” and thought it said “Haven.”  So, if you don’t like the nickname Liz, don’t name your daughter Elizabeth and if you’d prefer your son not be called Billy steer clear of William.


In the end, I would advise moms and dads everywhere to follow their hearts and heads when naming their offspring and to keep in mind the consequences your personal preferences and possible harebrained ideas may cause for your little one. So instead of naming your child something you might regret down the road, simply use those names the next time you’re in Starbucks. Trust me, no one there will care.