Beyond Words

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

Listen and Learn June 29, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:34 pm

There’s a lot of shouting going on out there. Yelling seems to be the current method of getting your message heard but sadly, some are yelling so loud and so much that many have literally stopped hearing them. The anger and hate is deafening and many are turning a deaf ear on what is hoped to be heard and in some cases, should be heard. Maybe for a minute, we should all stop screaming and instead start listening.



But, people in general just aren’t good listeners. We would much rather be talking. And posting. And commenting.  We seem to value speaking and being heard over listening and understanding. If by chance we do listen, it’s often just to set up our opinion or argument. We are living in a very politically and socially charged season right now and everyone has strong opinions they feel are the only opinions and more importantly, the only right opinions. As a wise friend once told me though, there are two sides to every story (and opinion): one side, the other side, and the truth. Think about that for a minute.


Think also about the oldie but goodie “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Rather then saying something demeaning or insulting, try breathing and listening. If you can’t be positive, be quiet. The silent majority often wins the battle even though some would have you believe all those squeeky wheels get the oil. Oil is slimy. Silence is golden.



Everywhere you look today someone has something to say but rarely hears what else is being said. Making our point is the goal, as is convincing others to approve what we believe and proving we are right by golly and you are wrong. End of story. End of post. End of any chance of agreement, reconciliation, or truce.



In short, we are good at talking but not so good at listening. Effective listening is an art; a learned skill. It is not something that’s arrived at easily or naturally, but it is an asset like no other. What if we just stopped for a minute to listen to others; really listen. Instead of planning and plotting our agenda and getting our points known, how about we work on truly understanding and comprehending another person’s position? As the Peace Prayer of St. Francis entreats, seek not so much to be understood as to understand. Something so simple and so benevolent could be the solution as we all strive for unity and acceptance.


It’s no secret that the quieter you become the more you can hear. We all want to be heard and are hearing a lot right now but much of it is falling on deaf ears because it’s being screamed at us in an unreceptive scolding tone. It’s also become non-stop screaming, which no one will listen to for very long. No one likes to be yelled at and everyone likes to be listened to.


Listening to others actually presents one with a win-win situation. Much of what we say is often misunderstood, which leads to conflict, frustration, and even disillusionment, as is so evidenced today. But, when you actively and respectfully listen to others, it encourages respect for both you and your opinion and a reciprocal level of listening back. In the perfect world course. There will be some…many probably…who no matter how much you listen to their side and opinion they will never listen to yours but if they don’t, it’s on them.



Listening is quite frankly the key to effective communication. You can yak away your position, but unless who you’re yaking to listens, it’s all for not. Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument. Some might say listening demonstrates weakness but I’m of the belief that smart people don’t plan big moves out loud. They let their success be their noise and know full well that silence is not a weakness. “Listen and learn” is real advice and real true.



To be a good listener, make who you’re listening to feel heard and maybe even understood. Make sure everyone feels safe in the conversation and focus on the speaker as they speak. In today’s online age, this is often impossible to do, but remember that when someone is stressed or insulted by what is being said or written, they are more likely to mishear or misread what you’re trying to get across. Never, ever try to convey emotions over the internet or texting and remember that feelings are never wrong. If what you say or write hurts someone’s feelings, your point is defeated. No one cares if you make them mad, but they do care if you hurt their feelings.



Lastly, pay close attention to who you’re listening to. There are many false prophets out there and you never want to take advice from someone you don’t respect. As you listen, present feedback in a polite yet informed manner and asks questions before submitting opinion or argument. Listen closely to what is being said and if there’s any doubt as to what the point is, repeat back what was said.


God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so He must have been on to something. A big part of loving is listening and a big part of praying is listening. God is constantly speaking to us but unlike us, he doesn’t scream so we need to be listening. When in prayer, we’re quick to present our petitions but do we ever sit still and listen to or for God? We’re good at talking to Him but not so good at talking with Him. Not bad advice when it comes to others as well.



I’d like to suggest that just for a day, maybe a week, or how about a month, try talking with people not talking to them. And talk to those whose opinions and outlooks differ from yours. Give them chance and give them a listen. You might just listen and learn.



Downward Dogs June 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:13 pm

We’re all in need of a little therapy these days aren’t we? My therapy consists of daily prayer and meditation, a good book or series, outdoor activities like golf and walking, and yoga. Yoga centers and calms me and like a former teacher once said, “We don’t use our body to get into a pose, we use a pose to get into our body.” My goal is not to do headstands, but to keep from being a stiff old lady who can’t bend, stretch, walk, or climb. I keep bending so I don’t break. In more ways than one.


Dogs also calm me and this morning the two…yoga and dogs…united in a most magical way.


Setting up for my online Mindful Vinyasa Flow class with the fabulous Nikki, all three of my dogs decided to join me. Normally I’d shoo them away, close the door, and practice dog-free. For some reason today however, all three of them seemed very calm, and in their own dog-like ways, very mindful. They each found a spot in the room and quietly laid down. Nikki often has her dog join us so I thought what the heck? And I’m doggone glad I did!


With Boomer perched on the bed, Nikki (one of my dogs, not my yoga instructor, but how foretelling that their names are spelled the same, which is not the standard spelling?!) in her little bed, and Barry snuggled alongside my mat, we all settled in for a little namaste. All during the class I was feeling a little upper body stiff and when it came time to twist on the floor and stretch, I found myself wishing I had yoga blocks. I don’t always use them and when I did, I just used ones in my class’s studio, but I kinda felt like I needed to move the ground up to rest my bent knees as they twisted to the right. As I did so, I felt Barry was right there and so I used him as a block. I didn’t think it would go well because Barry is the most skittish of our three rescues and I thought he would immediately startle and move away.


But he didn’t.


Instead, he stayed right next to me and continued to allow my knees to rest on him. It warmed my heart and took the term “downward dog” to a whole new level! I shared all of this with Nikki and fellow class attendees when class was over and we all admitted that none of us were really surprised. As Nikki said, dogs have a way of knowing what we’re feeling and what we need.



In fact, research suggests that dogs may actually possess and experience empathy, that psychological ability to feel someone else’s emotions. Barry convinced me of this today. He felt my need for support and steadily offered it.


A study published in the journal “Learning & Behavior” found that dogs who heard their owners call “HELP!” is a distressed tone opened a magnet-sealed door to reach them faster and more urgently than when they heard the same owners recite a nursery rhyme. Think about it. How many times have we seen dogs nuzzle up to a baby, protect their owner, rescue someone trapped, and go canine crazy after being reunited with an owner? They know. They feel.


This is also confirmed by Aaron McDonald, a canine behaviorist, dog trainer, and author of “Three Dimensional Dog: A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior,” who told “Eating Well” magazine, “Dogs are always keenly attuned to everything going on in a family. They record every nuance of ‘normal’ life and become concerned if we break that pattern.” He goes on to say that yelling distresses them even when it’s not directed at them, which is something my household needs to consider especially during football season!


I’ve often wondered during the whole COVID quarantine whether our three dogs have noticed that we are home all the time now. All the time. All day and night. From what Mr. McDonald said, they do and I’m of the thinking that they love it!



The above photo is one of Barry “holding hands” with our daughter who was home with us for 2 1/2 months earlier this summer working from home. When I saw it, I was shocked and so was she as Barry hates it when you touch or try to hold onto his paws. For some reason, he didn’t mind that day at that time. Did he sense a bit of anxiety in our daughter or perhaps he himself felt a a tad unsettled with our home’s “new normal” and the simple touch was easing. I’ll never know but I know it meant something. Something sweet and something special.



One last interesting dog connection I recently came across comes from none other than the Bible and the story about Lazarus, who demonstrated the consummate level of humiliation during those times as he was covered in sores and scorned by all. Jesus, of course, heals him but not before we read that “dogs came and licked his sores.” Some would suggest that those dogs were the original therapy dogs, including a Dominican Priest who wrote the article I read. I love this idea and something else he wrote: the Latin root words for “Dominican” are “domini” and “canis,” or “dog of the Lord. Makes total sense to me being that GOD and DOG are the same word spelled backwards!



If you know me you know. I’m a dog person so it only makes sense that one of the closest to my heart philanthropies that I try to support at all costs is “Hounds for Heroes,” which focuses on healing the wounds of war by healing veterans and their families through programs that incorporate the powerful human/canine bond. The multi-faceted and amazing program features service dogs, emotional support dogs, companion dogs, veterans helping fellow veterans, as well as professional service dog trainers and counseling. To watch a successful match develop and unfold is truly phenomenal.


Today Barry showed me something phenomenal too…that a dog who is skittish about almost everything knew when he was needed and calmly attended to the need and asked nothing in return. He did what we humans should do every day. I’m pretty sure this dog-eat-dog world would be much better for it.



Dogs are indeed amazing animals. Here are just a few fun facts about my favorite four-legged animals:

  • Dogs are healers. Simply caring for a dog can reduce anxiety, brighten a mood and reduce stress.
  • One study showed that within 10 minutes of looking into a dog’s eyes or petting a dog, the brain gets neurochemical bursts of oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine and endorphins, all chemicals that make us happy and relax us.
  • Other studies suggest that living with a dog reduces the symptoms and severity of depression and also boosts one’s immune system, reduces blood pressure, and lowers heart rates.
  • A British hospital actually “prescribes” a dog for patients who have suffered heart attacks and has found the chances of a second heart attack in them dropped 400 percent!
  • A study published by “Pediatrics” journal found that children who live with dogs during their first year of life got sick less often than kids from dog-less homes. The research revealed that the dirt and microbes brought in the house by Fido actually bolster helpful bacteria in a child’s immune system.
  • Babies who live with dogs are 31 percent more likely to be in good health than those who don’t, 44 percent less likely to develop ear infections, and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics during their first year of life.
  • Owning a dog is known to help you better maintain an active lifestyle and retain a healthy weight.  Dog owners are said to be both emotionally and physically healthier and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Dogs are said to be able to see things we cannot, as my friend can attest to following the deaths of her mom and dad. Her dog, she says, would look up in their bedroom and stare for minutes as if something or someone was up there. There are many similar reports of dogs doing this.
  • It is said that when a dog sees its owner its brain secretes the same substances ours do when we are in love. In short, your dog is truly in love with you!



Bird Sightings and Shoulder Taps June 23, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:26 pm

Sitting outside on our back patio the other day I saw a beautiful bright red male cardinal in a tree in our yard. We have lived in our “new” home for four years now, and I can’t think of one time I’ve seen a cardinal. We have lots of birds, squirrels, deer, and even a fox or two but cardinals not so much. I found this somewhat surprising when we moved here, as our last house was home to many a cardinal and it’s not all that far from our current home. So, like I do so well, I thought about it and analyzed what a rare cardinal sighting might mean.



I’d always heard cardinals represent a loved one who has passed and that when you see one, it means they are visiting you. I found it interesting to learn that they usually show up when you need them or miss them the most. But, I hadn’t recently lost anyone. I did however, have a friend who had just lost a beloved aunt and I immediately reach out to her to share my cardinal sighting story. Still, the “lost love one” theory didn’t personally move me or give me an “aha” moment. Until I read further.


Come to find out dear daddy cardinals also make appearances during times of celebration or despair. Bingo. I have been in despair and was in a somewhat disparaging mood as I sat outside that day. Who isn’t in despair right now, right? Nothing has gone on in my personal life or with any family members but our country is currently full of despair and destruction and it’s wearing me down. I’m tired of the news, I’m tired of the posting, and I’m tired of worry and anxiety. I’m. Just. Tired.



Thankfully, two co-workers and I agreed to meet for an outdoor visit at one of their homes this week. I miss these ladies so much and it was so nice to just catch up and laugh. We sat in my friend’s beautiful backyard and guess what showed up? Countless cardinals! It gave me chills and it made me happy. I felt like maybe, just maybe, they’re actually also good luck charms and the gloom and doom is about to change much like the season had just changed from spring to summer. Finger’s crossed, right?


Turns out, it is believed that whoever sees a cardinal will have good luck either at noon, midnight, or within 12 days of the sighting. I’m not sure what would qualify as “good luck” right now in my life, but just learning this cheered me up and gave me a bit of hope.


On top of that, spiritually a red cardinal sighting is a message from God who wants your attention and in a positive way. In addition, both cardinals and blood have long been symbols of vitality and in a Christian context, the cardinal is a symbol of life, hope, and restoration.


Hope and restoration.  I’m in need of both and I’m paying attention!



Just yesterday I got a video of hope and encouragement from my director. She sent out an update on what’s going on at work and included a video titled “Shoulder Taps.” In it, a man talks about seeing an elderly woman at a restaurant when a voice inside him tells him to go tell her how pretty she looks. He does so and is floored by what she says. “I know you and I know your spirit,” she tells him. “My husband died a year ago today and that’s something he would have said.” Needless to say, the man was speechless. He thought about it and concluded that God taps us on the shoulder and uses us at just the right moment. Whether we listen and feel those shoulder taps is up to us.



His story reminded me of a lunch my daughter and I were having many years ago when she was in high school. Sitting in a restaurant we notice a group of what looks like middle-school aged girls. All of them except one are pretty and have the air of “popular girls.” The one who doesn’t looks quiet and nervous. My daughter notices this and remembers suffering at the hand of middle school mean girls herself so as we walk out, she goes up to the table, looks right at the quiet girl and tells her how much she loves her top and how pretty she is. I’m not sure whose faces dropped more: the nervous young girl’s or those of the others sitting with her. Here is a pretty high school girl coming up and complimenting the one girl at the table who probably never got compliments. Shoulder tap? I’m thinking yes.


Courtesy Susie Davis

Maybe all those cardinals I’ve been seeing are shoulder taps or as I sometimes call them,“God winks.” I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of anything that can replace the blind hate and unchecked criminality destroying our nation and I’m loving the idea that a simple bird brought with it true hope for restoration and healing. I’m giving it a wing and a prayer.


Our Fathers June 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:43 pm

I recently read something that said one’s relationship with their dad is often the same relationship they have with God. If you have a caring, loving, and nurturing relationship with your dad, you’re likely to have that same type of relationship with God. On the other hand, if you share a more strict and measured connection with your dad, that’s probably how you see God.


Do you agree?



I gotta say AMEN as the relationship I had with my dad before he passed away my senior year of college is somewhat similar to how I was raised to worship God. Born a cradle Catholic, my faith as a child and young adult was one of strict rules and a “because I said so” mentality. Same when it came to household rules and fatherly advice. I didn’t know why I believed certain things or why I had to obey and respect my dad, I just knew it’s what you did. I didn’t question. I didn’t doubt. I was okay with it and turned out relatively okay.


It wasn’t until my dad was up in heaven with our Father and I became a bill-paying adult and parent that I begin to grasp the whys and the hows. I was able to maturely consider just how much my dad sacrificed for me and how very much our Lord sacrificed for all of us. Today my relationship with God is much more personal and reflective yet still respectful and indebted.



In much the same way, our daughter’s relationship with God mimics her relationship with her dad. “I love him dearly. He provides for me and is always there for me but I’m not going to get all touch-feely about it all.” That, pretty much sums up her relationship with her father and with the Father. She knows she has a loving dad who is always there for her and a loving God who is too and she loves them both.


Amazing, right?



It is said that 80 percent of everything children learn in their first 12 years of life is done so through their eyes. To all you dads out there, what are your children seeing on a daily basis? Are they seeing respect and love or are they seeing distance and indifference? What are you allowing them to see on TV and social media? What events do you take them to and what behaviors do they see among you and your friends? The role of fathers in society has never been more crucial then now as we continue to see the growing and often tragic results of “stay away” dads. We have generations of kids without fathers or with an absence of fatherly figures. We blame society but we are society so it’s time to step up dads and men. All eyes on you!



In Spain and other countries, fathers are celebrated on the Feast of St. Joseph. The thought is St. Joseph is the perfect example of what a respectable father should be. He showed up. He supported. He loved. I like this idea and often times pray to St. Joseph for my husband, my dad, and other dads.



As we celebrate Father’s Day today, let’s honor all those dads who gave us life as well as those who show us how to live. Take a minute to not only appreciate them but also how to reflect on whether those relationships mimic your relationship with God. Then, pray for fathers everywhere by saying the “Our Father,” but do so with new eyes in the following way:


I cannot say “Our” if my life has no room for others and their needs

I cannot say “Father” if I do not believe in Him

I cannot say “who art in heaven” if all I care about are earthly things

I cannot say “hallowed by Thy name” if I use the Lord’s name in vain

I cannot say “thy kingdom come” if I don’t take time to pray

I cannot say “thy will be done” if I’m distrustful and anxious

I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I worry more about what others think of me than what God thinks of me

I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” without giving to others first

I cannot say “forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” if I hold grudges and don’t forgive others

I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I stay in situations where I know I’ll be tempted

I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I’m not spiritually prepared to fight the fight

I cannot say “for thine is the kingdom” if I don’t obey the commandants

I cannot say “thine is the power” if I’m unwilling to let Him control things rather than trying to control everything myself

I cannot say “thine is the glory” if I seek glory for myself first

I cannot say “Amen” unless I believe


Can I get an AMEN and a Happy Father’s Day?!




Hope and Faith in What Seems Hopeless June 14, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:00 pm

I’m in the process of learning a new skill that is pretty intimidating to me and the woman who’s teaching it to me sent me the above screenshot as we were getting started. She knows me so well. Nope, I don’t like change very much, my living space is something I design as a place of comfort and coziness, and yep I love me a good spa day.


Change is the word of the day though, right? Everything has changed and everything is still changing. First we were instructed to lock ourselves in our homes for months only to later be permitted to protest, riot, and loot in crowds practicing anything but social distancing and self-isolating. It’s a scary world out there and getting scarier by the minute.



It’s also the “new normal” they say, but the “new” seems to become ever more “new” on a daily basis. As spiritual mamma and mentor Susie Davis recently wrote, some days the new normal is fun and some days it’s tiresome. She’s learned along the way that finding a new normal requires comfort in perhaps ways you never realized before and takes heaping doses of patience, curiosity, and courage. It’s not easy to step into something new she explains, and it can be scary to leave behind what you know. But, we will get through this she assures us. I trust her and most of all I trust her faith.


I also have faith and I have hope. I have faith that everything is in God’s hands and I hope that if I do so I will see His hand in everything. But these are trying times and there’s more to hope and faith than that.



Often intertwined but dissimilar, faith and hope are equally powerful and empowering. The dictionary defines faith as “confidence or trust in a person or thing or a belief not based on proof.”  Hope is defined as “an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation or desire.” To simplify, hope is a feeling of expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen while faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Hope always pertains to the future while faith is all about now. Faith gives our hope substance and hope keeps our faith alive. Some say faith is actually based on hope in that if there’s no hope, there’s no faith. Faith is in your heart and you could say hope is the soil in which we plant our faith.



Then, there’s hope vs. hopefulness, and there is a difference. Much like the difference in what you might read the photo above says. Do you see “God is now here” or “God is nowhere?” Perspective, right. Similarly, “Greater Things Today” suggested reading three statements along the lines of these:


I hope healing will come

I know God will bring healing

God is a healer


All three demonstrate different levels of positivity and trust and the difference between merely being hopeful, possessing hope, and having faith. The first statement is hopeful in that it is filled with wishful thinking but still clouded with doubt and fear. The second statement, although more confident, expresses hope yet still a hint of doubt, especially if you add “but” at the end. The third statement is certain and is faith-filled.



So where am I going with this? Our novel and ever-evolving “new normal” is causing anxiety, fear, and worry but if we have hope and we have faith, some of those scary things can be somewhat reduced if not eliminated altogether. Courtney Carver writes that she sees these unsettled times as a time of “waiting, wondering, and creating” and is taking the time to see things through a new lens and a lens that is not hurried or certain or even exactly as it will be. Maybe a lens filtered with faith and hope and not worry or fear?



Now is not the time to give up hope. Instead, keep hoping for hope and trusting. We are all individually seeing many enemies out there and if you haven’t, just turn on the news or check social media. So much hate. So much disrespect. So much division. But in truth, we ALL have only one enemy and that enemy is enjoying every minute of the discourse and destruction and is laughing out loud. It all comes down to us…you, me, I. And as Life.Church so eloquently said today, the difference between UNITED and UNTIED is simply where you place the I. Where is your I? Is it firmly planted in an “I am right” position or an “I preach hate masked as all-knowing stance?” Are you uniting with your posts and positions or are you untying what little hope there is left?



As we all continue to witness and/or experience current or past unemployment, isolation, hate, vandalism, illness, and even death, I for one will continue to have hope that cooler heads will prevail and that the new normal will be one filled with a true faith that can move mountains. Will you take that first step and climb with me? I’m hopeful.