Beyond Words

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

Compliments to the Chef…and Anyone Else January 31, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:26 pm


You look fabulous!


Your presentation was amazing!


I couldn’t have done it without you!


You’re the best!


Don’t we all love hearing any and all of the above? We love being praised, appreciated, needed, and complimented, so in honor of this past week’s National Compliment Day (I love these things!) we’re talking all things accolades today.


I hate receiving compliments. Said no one ever.


Oddly enough, as much as we love feeling the love, many of us aren’t good recipients of compliments. Raise your hand if when someone tells you “I love those shoes,” your reply is something along the lines of “they’re so old” or “I got them on sale.” A gracious, “thank you so much” is the perfect reply so why do we often feel like we have to justify…or nullify…a compliment?



We live in a very critical time surrounded by a society of online strangers and anonymous insults, so you’d think it’d be the other way around…that we’d praise someone right back for praising us. Not only does discounting a compliment suck positivity out of praise, it also deflates the donor of that praise, maybe make them feel dumb for even thinking of complimenting something you so obviously seem is unworthy of praise, invalidate their judgement, and at the very least, create a moment of social awkwardness.



The art of complimenting is indeed tricky. Knowing how to give one…and how to receive one…are both skills everyone needs to know. When you compliment someone, be sure it’s for their benefit and not just a way of manipulating them, which takes us into the world of flattery, defined as excessive or insincere praise. Don’t be fake; be sincere. Anything faux or misguided is painfully transparent. Make sure those words of affirmation are from the heart and void of any ulterior motives.



Complimenting someone means you’ve been paying attention, which is maybe why they are often hard for me to acknowledge properly. I don’t like attention and even though one of my dominant Love Languages is “Words of Affirmation,” I prefer hearing them somewhat privately and certainly not so everyone else can take note and spotlight me. Taking notice of someone’s praise-worthy acts or qualities is also somewhat of an art form. Awareness and being observant don’t come naturally to everyone but if you want to up your compliments game, up your listening and watching skills too.



Ironically, even though being complimented can be socially awkward at times, it’s a well-known fact that complimenting someone in public goes a long way. I remember learning this years ago as it pertains to spouses. It’s always a good idea to compliment your spouse in a crowd. Don’t go overboard and to the point that it makes him or her uncomfortable, but praise away. On the flip-side, make it a habit to praise and compliment people behind their backs too. Yep, behind their backs. When you compliment someone who’s not present, the compliment can feel even more genuine.



Giving someone a shout-out is a win-win, as research shows both the giver and the receiver get an emotional boost and the energy resulting from a simple “thanks for being a great friend” is undeniably positive. We all have our doubts and insecurities and might wonder if anyone really notices us and our good works. Someone on the receiving end of praise is more than likely strive to do more of what got them that praise, whether it be practicing more or working hard. Simply put, compliments amplify positivity and are very powerful gifts.


With all the bickering out there, the sure way to end an argument or heated discussion is to compliment the person on the opposite end of the argument. You of course don’t need to agree with what they’re saying, but telling them “I admire your passion for this issue” or “Sounds like you’ve done some research” can put a much-needed halt to any negativity. The same holds true when you’re trapped in a conversation of gossip that may be making you uncomfortable.


If all this makes it sound like the simple and thoughtful act of giving a compliment is somewhat of an art form, it’s cuz it is. It’s also an important social skill and an essential part of social life and etiquette. As I mentioned earlier, always praise someone sincerely and also be specific in that praise. A somewhat vague “you cut your hair” may have the intent of “I love your new haircut” but may also leave the person wondering what you really mean. Be precise with your praise.



Woman’s Day

Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project” makes no bones about it that being on the receiving end of a compliment makes anyone happy, but she also says to think outside of the praise box and maybe compliment someone on the less obvious. For instance, instead of complimenting your hair stylist on how great she does your hair, praise her for her hard work, gorgeous smile, or even her successful parenting skills. Think about what someone does but probably rarely gets recognized for. That grocery store clerk may work hard and do a great job during these trying times, but if he has amazing eyes or is super friendly, let him know as you swipe your card. This can be especially true for kids. If Leo won first place, tell him you’re proud of that but that you’re even more proud of how hard he worked to get there. Praise the process, not the outcome.


Lastly, let’s take care of a little grammar and spelling. I often see “compliment” and “complement” used incorrectly and it drives this wordsmith nuts. Both words are derived from the Latin word “complere,” which means “to complete” but they are not interchangeable. “Complement” refers to something that completes something else while “compliment” means to remark in the form of admiration, esteem, or approval.  A tip to remember which is which? Look at the spelling, as “complement” has an “e” after the “l” just like “complete” does, while “compliment” has an “i” after the “l.”


Compliments make the world a better place and there you have it, the complete world of compliments. I enjoyed researching this topic and I admire you for reading about it. You’re the best!


Snow Wonderful January 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:21 am

Who knew a snowstorm could bring such joy to a region, a city, and my neighborhood?  After being locked-up and quarantined for nearly a year now, kids and grown-ups alike took to the streets in a peaceful protest of warm and sunny weather and reveled in quickly found jackets and gloves as uncommon snow fell from the sky and did so for an entire day. Dogs scampered and sniffed. WFH and homeschooling took a quick pause. People were silly and a lightness filled the snow-filled air. It was beautiful. Big, fat, fluffy flakes falling from the sky for hours on end. Snowmen were made, sleds were created, and social media was filled with snow many photos. Oh wait, did I mention this happened in Central Texas, where in mere days temps are predicted to be in the 70s?



Friends and family out west and up north laughed as we shared photos with them and went on and on and on that it was “still snowing!”  Sorry guys, but our elation was as pure as the driven snow we were gazing at and we chose to make snow angels! Yes, we’ve had snow before, most of the time a mere dusting that wreaks havoc but is gone before photos can even be uploaded. Yesterday it was a snow day like I remember while growing up in the Rocky Mountains or like in my husband’s hometown of Buffalo. During the winter months growing up, my elementary school PE class on Fridays consisted of hopping on a Greyhound bus and riding it up the mountain for ski lessons. I loved every minute and to this day, when I smell a bus, it reminds me of that happy snow-filled moment of my life.



And speaking of Buffalo, it’s where Wilson Bentley’s amazing library of snowflake photographs is housed at the Buffalo Museum of Science and yes, those are real photos of real snowflakes! I cannot think of a more perfect place for it then Buffalo, also home of the famous Blizzard of 1977, the butt of many “lake effect” snow and weather jokes, and those lovable Buffalo Bills who, in a show of perfect timing for my household, had just a day prior won their first play-off game since 1995. Go Bills! We are snow excited!



Buffalo is also where I experienced and totally enjoyed eight feet of snowfall one Christmas. Yep, eight feet. It started snowing Christmas Eve and didn’t stop till sometime after New Year’s. We were literally snowed in there for days but it was one of our family’s most memorable Christmases. It was crazy. It was beautiful.



That’s what folks in these parts thought yesterday as up to six inches fell and accumulated city-wide. It was a thrill for all and seemed to almost wipe clean the miserable stain of the previous week and election cycle. It may not be able to actually wipe away a virus, but for one glorious day it wiped away hate, animosity, and stress.


Thank you snowflakes. Simple snowflakes.



I’ve always loved snow and that “Little Book of Snowflakes” is one of my favorites. I actually have it in our powder room at this very minute for guests to look through as they take care of business. The photos in it are amazing but author and photographer Kenneth Libbrecht was not the first to capture the delicate objects on film. That honor belongs to Mr. Bentley.



Bentley’s obsession with snowflakes began more than a hundred years ago on a small farm in Vermont. Young Wilson had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and was extremely curious even at the earliest of ages. He quickly became enthralled with his school teacher mother’s microscope and began studying rocks, birds, and everything in between. But it was snowflakes that fascinated him the most.



He concocted a way to collect the fragile flakes and began drawing them in a notebook. He later asked for a camera, which he trained himself to work and eventually attached a microscope lens to. It was in 1885 that he captured the earliest known photo of a single snowflake. He continued improving his photographing skills and snowflake collecting techniques and was asked to write about his methods and findings. Being an introvert though (yay introverts!), he first hesitated  but eventually agreed and was later featured in articles in the likes of “Popular Mechanics” and “National Geographic.” His 1931 book, “Snow Crystals,” features some 2,400 of his amazing images.



It is said that no two snowflakes are alike and that billions of them fall during one snow storm. Billions. Not all are beautifully symmetric but all are amazing in their own way, some no bigger than the head of pin but still decorated with a unique pattern. As for the largest snowflake ever recorded, it was found in Montana and measured 15 inches in diameter. Oh how dear old Mr. Bentley would have loved to have photographed that one!



There is something calming and peaceful about snow. Yeah, don’t tell that to the people of Buffalo or other places that get tons of snow every year, but I personally love a beautiful snow storm and the calming energy it brings with it. Speaking of snowy cities, which one do you think got the most snow during the last year? Here is the official standing of the snowiest cities of 2020:


Anchorage, AK

Spokane, WA

Buffalo, NY

Worcester, MA

Minneapolis, MN

Billings, MT

Pittsburg, PA

Fort Collins, CO

Erie, PA

Cleveland, OH



A snowflake isn’t a frozen raindrop, as many might believe, but rather a single crystal of ice that grows directly from water vapor in the air as the snowflake slowly drifts to earth. In short, a cloud is made from countless microscopic water droplets and when one freezes, snowflakes result. Simply moving from place to place within a cloud produces an infinite variety of different shapes of flakes, their patterns emerging as they tumble through the clouds and the air.



In the end, it was just one day. One magical day though. We did wake up to snow-filled yards the next morning, but save for a few shaded patches, it’s all but melted away. What a delight though to see how that same snow melted many a heart for a brief day in a most taxing period of time. I for one am snow grateful.


A Leap of Faith January 1, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:54 pm

We’ve collectively waited for this day for nearly a year, but now that it’s here, does anyone else feel a little meh about it? I know I do. The celebrations were muted and the uncertainty remains. It’s as though we’ve anticipated it for so long and now that it’s arrived, things are pretty much the same as they were yesterday…and in October…and in July…and back in March. Yes, there’s hope with the vaccines, but we shall wait to see.




Maybe for me it’s because 2021 didn’t start off on the right foot…literally. The annual Polar Plunge that I l’ve looked forward to for many years running was cancelled. Of all the years we needed it! But, I’m vowing to jump into the new year feet first anyway and with a lot of hope and a little optimism.

2020 was rough. To say the least. But it was also a good year for many. Friends of mine welcomed a beautiful baby boy into their lives after many years of fertility struggles. Weddings happened, albeit edited ones. And if you’re reading this, you survived a year thousands did not. So, 2020 will be a “good” year for so many and for that, I am grateful.



But here we sit, all hoping this year is infinitely better than its predecessor.  But as I mentioned above, not much is different today. We’re still on lock down, struggling businesses are still closed, the virus is still out there, and sadly, a year that began with the chorus “we are all in this together” ended with still so much hate and animosity permeating our beloved country. I’m also exceedingly troubled by the direction so many people chose for our country. It’s something I will never, ever understand. So, where does that leave us? Are we hopeful? Pessimistic? Relieved? What do we really and truly want starting today?


Oddly enough, that very question was asked of my amazing yoga instructor Nicki at @InnerEssenceYoga and her response is one we can all embrace:



In other words, it’s on us people. We feed the flames, we feed the monsters, and we ultimately feed our souls. Let’s all try to focus on not only unity but what’s at stake if we don’t. Namaste!



There’s no denying 2020 has been a tumultuous year but in the midst of all the chaos, I’m pretty sure we each can come up with some positives and things we can appreciate. The little things. Maybe it was a book you read that you loved or the discovery of a new TV show that you enjoyed watching.  Perhaps you connected with your stay-at-home family on levels you never had. Maybe it was making new friends in your circle that was increasingly smaller or a new puppy. Courtney Carver of “Be More with Less” suggests creating a “Little Things Journal” to keep track of all of these soft nuances in our days that bring us joy and magic.


Carver takes this a bit further by reminding us we need to let go…let go of 2020 as much as we can and let go of the things that we just don’t need anymore.  These might include guilt; the guilt you have from not doing things, what you didn’t get done, or how you did things last year as well as the guilt of what you chose to help you feel better. If baking bread or shopping online made you happy during quarantine, it’s okay. Give yourself grace that you might have added a few pounds since last spring and kindly remind yourself that you can take those pounds off. Or not. Let go of guilt.


Let go of old goals and expectations and thoughts and beliefs that just don’t fit you anymore. Maybe you didn’t achieve your goals but remember, many of them might have be made back in January and things changed dramatically after. You are not the same person this January that you were last January or even last year as a whole. Things don’t always go our way and we will all fail, but don’t allow your failures to define you. Cut your goal-oriented self some slack and feel the freedom of starting over. At the same time, let go of expectations of others.


Let go also of what other people think or say about you. Live your best life and let them live theirs. Let go of any resentment, pain, or envy and replace them with forgiveness and understanding. We all changed in 2020 and none of us are obligated to be the same people we were even one year ago. Embrace the new you and stop caring about what others think of you. Their circus and monkeys are not yours to tend to and vice versa.


Let go of your mistakes. Acknowledge them and learn from them, but remind yourself of the successes you experienced and progress you made in 2020. Steer you brain train off the negative 2020 track and take stock in what you accomplished and the little things that made you smile. Make peace with 2020 and make peace with yourself.



Now it’s time to not see obstacles anymore, but opportunities instead. Start today by embracing you and giving yourself more credit. Look out for yourself and stick up for yourself. Self-care is not selfish and can indeed be done while caring for those around you. In fact, the more you love yourself the more you can give and share love with others. When you think better of yourself you live a better life, despite any obstacles or adversity.


Make happiness a priority and continue doing anything you enjoyed in 2020. Maybe it’s a new hobby or something you learned that brought you joy. This year, put your heart and soul into it in meaningful but healthy ways and see where it can take you emotionally.


Keep paying attention to the right people in 2021 and show them love and respect. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s how important some of the people in our lives are. We learned who we value, who we missed, and who we can count on.


Find the balance. Juggling working from home, homeschooling, and trying to stay healthy and informed is exhausting. Not much of that will change in the immediate future so work hard but rest, stay informed but unplug. The news cycle is toxic right now. Walk away from it.


Consider and reflect on your 2020 wins. Maybe you walked more and got more physically healthy. Maybe you organized and simplified. Maybe you learned all kinds of new things while homeschooling your kids. If you look and seek, you will find achievements you may not have been paying attention to.


Think beyond the pandemic and the politics and ask yourself what made 2020 memorable. Maybe it was someone you connected with for the first time or a milestone date. I had both. I turned 60 in 2020 and I made wonderful new friends when I took up tennis again and had the time to play more golf. When I look back on 2020 I also find memorable the time our daughter “got” to spend at home with us, reading more, slowing down, staying healthy, discovering a new priest and his fabulous Sunday sermons online, and that I really don’t need manis and pedis and not having to go to the appointments was actually freeing. I also learned just how big an introvert I am, and coupled with the fact the I’m also an empty nester, I actually didn’t mind and sometimes actually enjoyed the #stayhome mandate. But that’s just me.



So as we all dive into 2021, ask yourself what’s one thing you learned in 2020? What’s one hard thing you did and triumphed over? What is your biggest 2020 regret? What were some of 2020’s positive experiences? And finally, what are you grateful for? Be honest and then jump feet first into this new year and let go of the things you can’t control and make the positive changes you can.  It’s time to leave behind what you don’t need and the many bitter disappointments we encountered. It’s time to take a leap of faith.