Beyond Words

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

Pencil Me In August 14, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:04 pm


Students are headed back to school and school supplies are being bought up in stores coast to coast. I love school supplies and can totally relate to the above meme. Notebooks. Highlighters. Binders. Calendars. Planners. Folders. Markers. Sharpies. Glue sticks. Post-its. White Out. Pens. And, of course, pencils. I love them all.


Elements of Style

As I write this, if I glance at the wall in front of me in my office, I see a giant pencil hanging on the wall. And I mean giant. It’s one of my favorite pieces of “art” and brings a bit of whimsy and color to the room.


When our daughter was school-aged, no matter the age, I was that mom who hated the pre-packaged and boxed up school supplies. I longed to take her to every Target and Office Max in the area and stock up on everything and anything. She should feel lucky but am not sure it’s on the top of her “Why mom mom is awesome list.”




If she were to make such a list, maybe she could use some fun colored pencils, which are always fun to write and draw with. Again, doubtful.



Or maybe she could use a fat pencil or a little golf pencil, which BTW are great for early writers as they are the perfect fit for their little hands.


Yes, I love pencils and all things office supplies. Sooooo……when I came across a story about a man who sculpts delicate works of art on the tips of pencils I took notice. I think you will too.


Pencil Thin Master


Jasenko Dordevic is a Bosnian sculptor who has erased the improbable when it comes to works of art by carving miniature sculptures that are not only stunning but mind-boggling. Inspired by lead artist Dalton Ghetti, Dordevic has been creating sculptures on the tips of graphite pencils since 2010 and loves the fact that pencils, long used as tools for making art, are now art themselves. Amazing, right? Here are a few samples of his truly amazing work courtesy TOLDart.





I don’t know what kind of pencil Dordevic uses but I do know this school supply loving blogger decided to pencil in time to learn all about the writing tools we take somewhat for granted. What exactly is the famous No. 2 pencil and why is it called that? Why are most pencils that signature yellow-gold? Intrigued? Read on.



Meredith Miller Matthews

The photo above shows a variety of pencils and was posted by a mom to demonstrate that the prettier the pencil does not always mean the longest lasting or best bang for your buck. We’ve all bought them and we’ve all been frustrated by crumbling leads as we try to sharpen them. Come to find out that Ticonderoga pencils are hands down the most popular and respected among those who know. Tico what?



The Write Stuff


It all started back in 1812 when curious ship captain son Joseph Dixon discovered a love for experimenting with graphite found on his dad’s boats. The young entrepreneur mixed the mineral with clay and water, rolled it into strips, and baked it in his mom’s oven.  He later pressed it all into cedar wood and the first Ticonderoga pencil was born.


Dixon went on to amass graphite, iron, and steel factories and during the Civil War, when soldiers were seeking a more practical alternative to the quill pen for writing home, Dixon’s pencils became widely popular and the Dixon Crucible Company was soon making 86,000 pencils a day. Today the company (thankfully!) makes a wide variety of writing utensils, including colored pencils and golf pencils.


It wasn’t until 1913 that the yellow No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil was introduced. Originally made with a brass ferrule, it was temporarily changed to green plastic due to a metal shortage during World War II but returned to its now-iconic color and metal ferrule after the war.



So what exactly is a No. 2 pencil? It all has to do with the graphite grading scale and a pencil’s location on it depends on the hardness of its graphite core. The higher the number, the harder the core is and the lighter its written marks will be. A No. 2 pencil is the second darkest, is considered by many as the perfect pencil, and is sometimes also called an HB pencil. It has a soft core and leaves darker marks but it they and other “soft” pencils dull faster and require more frequent sharpening.



So who really invented the pencil? Most agree that the ancient Roman writing instrument called a stylus is the granddaddy of them all. Scribes used the thin metal rods to leave a readable mark on papyrus, the early form of paper. Graphite entered the picture in England in 1564 and was a writing hit. Graphite “sticks” were originally wrapped in string but were later inserted into hollowed-out wooden sticks. Sounds like the first ever wooden pencil to me!


Stateside, William Monroe, a Massachusetts cabinet maker, is credited with making America’s first wood pencils and none other than author David Thoreau was known not only for his writing skills but for his pencil making ones as well. Who knew?!



But why yellow? Amazingly, pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s as the best graphite came from China where yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil makers wanted people to know the very best graphite was used in their pencils so they painted their pencils yellow to symbolize a regal and crowning achievement following European producer Koh-I-Noor’s lead in painting their lead items yellow.




Then there’s the Blackwing pencil, favored by the likes of John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, E.B. White, and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones.  Crafted in the 1930s by the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, the pencil with the celebrated rectangular eraser became synonymous with quality and was considered the calligraphy pencil of all pencils. But then, in 1998, Blackwings were discontinued and a buying frenzy ensued, including one by Sondheim who reportedly bought a lifetime supply of them. Thankfully, the pencil was re-introduced in 2010 and cult-following number two has ensued over a number No. 2 pencil.



Write This Down


I leave you now with the above graphic of colorful pencils with traits and virtues we should all strive for as well as two things having to do with school supplies, pencils, or both. One, is that as kids return to school, many don’t have the supplies they may need, particularly art supplies that allow them to create and learn at the same time. Enter “Painting Pandas,” a nonprofit dedicated to giving art tools and visual art lessons free of charge to the underserved and who may not have access to them and ages 5-12. Check them out at


Lastly, “The Parable of the Pencil” has always been one of my favorites and what better place to put it, then “write” here? Thanks for reading…and writing. Keep leaving your mark, sharpening your skills, erasing your mistakes, and focusing on what’s on the inside. It’s what makes you and all pencils special.



Give Me Some Direction August 5, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:56 pm

There’s a running joke between me and my daughter. Any time we are driving in an unfamiliar area and the risk of getting lost or taking a wrong turn is high, we jokingly say, “I hope we don’t end up in Tempe.”


You see, neither of us have any sense of direction and when she lived in Scottsdale, no matter how hard we tried to find our way somewhere we’d more often than not take that wrong turn and see the sign saying “Welcome to Tempe.” We knew right then and there we needed to turn around and start up our maps app.


Thank goodness for maps apps.  Even my husband, who has an amazing sense of direction, relies on what I affectionately call “Poopsie” to get him where he’s going in unfamiliar territory. Funny thing is, once he’s gone somewhere say two or three times, he no longer needs Poopsie. I, on the other hand, can return somewhere again and again and yet still end up in Tempe if I don’t use a map app. Come to find out, I am not alone.



Reporter Dr. John LaPook of “CBS Sunday Morning” recently did a fascinating piece on this very subject and I learned so much. For one, animals are amazingly adept at sense of place. Polar bears in particular are great navigators as they migrate north-to-south every year, as are snow geese.  We look up at a “V” of geese or any birds flying above and think how cool it is and how cool it looks, but it’s actually a navigational tool and a sort of “follow the leader.” They all flawlessly fly together using visual clues, the position of the sun, and their sense of smell to get them where they’re going and quite possibly to safer ground. For many in the animal kingdom, this makes perfect sense because they often live where getting lost could very well be the end of them. The same could hold true for us humans.


“People are bad at sense of direction but ought to be good at it because if you lose your way it’s a threat to survival,” Temple University Professor Norah Newcombe told LaPook.  Yikes!



Getting lost in Tempe or Tulsa may not threaten my survival but there are areas of many places that mistakenly venturing into very well could. So what can we learn from directionally blessed animals? Awareness is key; be aware of what’s going on around you. Look for visual markers that stand out to you and pay attention. I sense a solution here.


All of our senses, in fact, are involved in forming a sense of place, which is coded in the very wiring of the brain. Think of it all as a sort of internal map system of specialized nerve cells that track where you’re headed and where you are in relation to landmarks. Landmarks. Key word here.



Follow These Directions

When driving (or walking or hiking or cycling or maybe even boating) into unchartered territory, keep a mental track of landmarks you pass. These don’t have to be the Lincoln Memorial or Wrigley Field, but can be something as simple as a Dairy Queen or a water tower. A national park ranger also suggested to LaPook to every now and then look back from where you came and notice those landmarks. This will hopefully help in both remembering how to get somewhere the next time and returning from where you came should you be making a round trip. Yeah right my lost brain is telling me as I write this. No chance. But, I guess it’s worth a shot, right?



But, when I think about it, the “look back and look and landmarks” cue might actually work for me as I’m one of those who hates when someone says “go east on I35 then turn south onto Avenue A.” No thank you. I need  “left and right” directions rather than “east and west,” so “Turn left at third stop sign then go right at the big white church” is just what I need. And, don’t even get me started on boat navigational terms. Winward? Leeward? Bow and stern? Port and Starboard? Ugh!



Exits in big cities can be challenging for me, as I want a simple “Exit north (okay…in this sense it makes sense) onto I20,” but they often are “Exit north on I20/Exit 24B/County Road 682 Dallas.” Do what? I do however, love that many states use mile markers and incorporate them into exits. These help me prepare for that confusing exit lurking up ahead.



This whole idea of recognizing and tracking our environment is so respected that a Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2014 for a study that proved your brain creates maps of where you’ve been. My brain clearly didn’t participate in that study and if it had, it would have definitely lowered the bar when it came to learning, remembering, and connecting routes. My husband’s on the other hand, would have proved them right.



Which brings us to the age old question of “are men better navigators then women?” You know the joke, a man would rather get lost then ask for directions but are they really better at human navigation? There’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this, but it’s quite telling that men can escape from a maze faster than women and are more likely to take shortcuts. Whatever.



Manly or not, many a male today relies on their technical navigation tools to safely get them from Point A to Point B. But, Newcombe is not a fan as she says they are bad for our sense of direction in that if you rely on them too much, you aren’t forming an overview of your environment. I for one am putting my money on Poopsie rather than the Professor for this one.


So off I go, map app in hand, and hoping I don’t end up in Tempe. Then again, Tempe’s not a bad place to get lost and besides, sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself. Let’s go find out.



While researching this blog, I ran across some fun and interesting info about our nation’s highway system I thought I’d share. Some of it I knew; some I was thrilled and surprised to learn. Enjoy!


Did you know…

Despite how confusing highways and their signage might feel sometimes, our nation’s highway numbering system actually makes sense once you know how it works. Highways that run east/west have even numbers while those running north/south have odd numbers. An easy way to remember this is “E for East.”


As for those other “route” numbers, they too have a reason. Numbers of even-numbered routes increase from south to north, which is why in the southern US I10 runs between Santa Monica, California and Jacksonville, Florida while the higher numbered I90 runs between Seattle and Boston.


And there’s more…

Odd route numbers increase from west to east while major north/south interstates increase route numbers from west to east. This is why I5 is on the west coast and I95 in on the east.


Finally, any route numbers divisible by 5 are considered major arteries among primary routes and designed to carry traffic long distances. Examples would be I10 and I95.


So, you’re driving along an interstate or route of some sort and you come across signage. There’s a method to their madness as well.



One of the best and most useful yet little known things about signage on Interstate highways is that the positioning of the Exit Number on the sign tells you if you’ll be exiting right, left, or straight.


Most exit signs will also include Mile Marker numbers, which start at the state line when you cross into a new state or at the beginning of that an Interstate.


For east/west highways, mile markers count from west-to-east. If you are driving eastbound, they start with “MM 1” one mile from the state line. They start counting from south-to-north for highways going in those directions. When driving north, numbers start one mile from the southern state line.


Usually, Exit numbers correspond to the mileage markers on the Interstates. If you are in the middle of nowhere and need assistance, providing emergency personnel with the nearest mile marker can be crucial to finding your location. This is why you should pay attention to the mile markers during your road trip.


And finally, leave it to Texas to lay claim to the highest numbered mile marker with Interstate 10’s Mile Marker 880 and its corresponding exit in Orange, Texas. And, it’s not only the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in the U.S., but in all of North America. In essence this means there are 880 miles of that I10 in Texas, which is one long drive for anyone.


While we’re talking highways, let’s talk about two of our country’s most iconic and famous ones. First, Highway 1.



Highway 1 is a major north/south highway that runs 2,370 miles along the east coast from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border. It is the longest north/south road in the U.S. and is generally considered the easternmost of the main north/south U.S. highway system although parts of others run closer to the ocean. Construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System resulted in I95 becoming the major north/south east coast highway in the late 1960s but US1 is still a favorite of many.



On the west coast you’ll find the equally symbolic Highway 101 or US 101. The nearly 1,550 mile long road runs through California, Oregon, and Washington. It is also known as El Camino Real and is the westernmost north-south route in the U.S. Highway System.


The highway travels from the East Los Angeles Interchange, the world’s busiest freeway interchange, to Tumwater, Washington. In between, it runs through a greater portion of L.A. and is also called the Hollywood Freeway, Ventura Highway, and other monikers while traversing through the San Fernando Valley, Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara, and many other locales. It goes across the often photographed Bixby Creek Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge but although US 101 remains a major coastal north–south link on the Pacific coast, it has been replaced in overall importance for transport by I5.


I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven “The 101” and stood at the “end of the road” of Highway 1 in Key West and will say, they are both memorable. So, as Willie would say, get “on the road again” and maybe check them out. Just be sure to take Poopsie with you.


Happy travels everyone!



Pray For Yourself August 2, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:32 am

Think for yourself. Fend for yourself. Treat yourself. Pray for yourself?


How many times a day or a week do you pray for someone else? If you’re like me, almost on a daily basis, right? I get prayer requests from people near and far on a regular basis or I simply lift up my loved ones every day. If I asked you how many times a day or a week you pray for yourself, would your answer be the same? Mine certainly wouldn’t and this sad fact was revealed to me today in a powerful podcast I listened to.


If you know me at all, you know that I adore spiritual mamma and all-around inspirer Susie Davis. Today she and her husband, Al Davis, Jr., talked about praying for yourself on their podcast. It was eye opening.



Come to find out that praying for yourself is one of the most underdeveloped disciplines and that most people don’t pray for themselves, me included. It is often considered selfish and self-serving but in reality, it’s anything but.  Even Jesus often prayed for Himself. Gethsemane is only one vivid example of this.


Think about it, as Susie and Al said, the person you live with the longest is yourself so shouldn’t you love and pray for yourself? If you don’t love yourself, pray for it. It really and truly pleases God when we love who He created. It’s not selfish; it’s smart and it’s basically giving God permission to guide you, lead you, forgive you, and disciple you.



Sadly, we often leave prayer – whether for ourselves or for someone else – for another time. A quiet time. A calm time. A happy time. Funny thing is, we sometimes avoid praying when we need it most. When we’re sad, hurting, sinful, anxious, or just feeling a general feeling of unworthiness. That’s when He wants us most. God does not want perfect. He asks us to bring Him our helplessness, weaknesses, imperfections, and sins. He understands that we make mistakes and is waiting with open arms for us to offer Him prayers for ourselves.


The person with the most potential impact with God in your life is, you guessed it, yourself, so pray big and pray a lot. Examine the holes and flaws in your life and pray to remove them, fix them, or change  them. These could be character holes. Discipline holes. Moral holes. Don’t you want them removed? Then pray for that!



When you do pray for yourself, Al reminds us to check your motives at the door. Be humble and pray to make wise decisions. Also pray to be full of joy and God’s will and way as well as influence and wisdom. And don’t hide. Don’t hide what’s in your heart or your head but instead bring it all to Him and let His love wash over you.


Praying for yourself is also a way of what Susie calls “soul care.” Walk away from the madness and make quiet time for pray. Set your boundaries and say no to things that might distract you. Choose being present over being busy and look for things that matter most to you and your heart. Go rest and go pray. Feed yourself. Provide for yourself. Take care of yourself. Don’t skip yourself when you pray and remember to be active not passive in your prayers and on your prayer list. Be needy with yourself!



Give yourself permission to pray for yourself.  Pray against pride. Pray for humility. Pray to be physically and mentally healthy. Pray for things you want to become and for help in things you don’t like about yourself. Pray to handle your responsibilities, to be more charitable, patient, accepting, honest, happy, and encouraging. Pray to avoid malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, greed, laziness, and slander. We are living in a world full of those who think they are righteous. Pray not to feel you are without sin or guilt or that you alone are morally upright. Remember that only God is truly righteous.



Pray big and pray often but remember even simple prayers can save your life. Whether you pray for something big for yourself or something on a smaller scale, when you do, give yourself permission to be you and talk to God about you. Ask Him “what do you want to teach or show me today?” Author Ronald Rolheiser describes prayer as “lifting mind and heart to God,” so do just that. Lift every thought and every feeling regardless of how irreverent, selfish, angry, unimportant, or frivolous they might seem.  If you’re feeling joyful, pray praise. If you’re feeling anger, pray anger. He knows you’re angry and He will help you through it. What’s important, Rolheiser writes, is to pray what’s inside of us and not what we think God would like to see inside of us. Be honest. Be bold.



But, be ready to listen. Turning down the volume of life and all its distractions allows you to listen to God. God listens and He speaks to us through prayer. Prayer by its nature is requesting. It’s not demanding. It’s asking for understanding and clarity. It has the power to heal our fragmented minds and hearts. Our souls.


Prayer is often called “worship” and in worship, as the old word “worth-ship” implies, it’s worth it, He’s worth it, and I’m worth it. I’m worth praying for and asking for anything. Anything large enough to occupy your mind is large enough to pray for. Ask away and pray away!



Susie and Al say there are so many reasons you should pray for yourself. Pray for yourself because you love yourself…or because you don’t. Pray for yourself because how you are affects everyone around you. Learn to love to pray for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about it. Feel grateful. You deserve it. Can I get an amen?