Beyond Words

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

Take My Breath Away October 23, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:48 pm

 

I read something interesting this past week detailing just how important deep breathing is and that it is one of the body’s strongest self-healing tools. I took a deep breath as I read all about how it lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rates, decreases stress hormones, oxygenates the blood, exercises the lungs, increases physical and mental energy, and improves immunity. Wow. Quite a lot for a simple “just breathe” tip, right?

 

 

I knew some of this but not all of it. As luck would have it, I had my yoga practice the day I read all about the benefits of good breathing and my amazing yoga instructor Nicki of course knows all about all of this. Yoga, as any of you yogis know, is big on big, deep breaths. It’s just one of the many things I love about yoga as closing my eyes and breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth calms me, centers me, and drains my brain. Now I know it does all that and so much more.

 

 

Think about it, breathing means life. Without it; we are dead. In talking about this after class, we all talked about how important proper breathing is in activities like swimming. Nicki also pointed out that babies breathe from their bellies, not their chests. Watch a baby breathe and you’ll see their bellies go up and down in perfect yoga “big belly breath” sequence. Sadly, as that baby grows up he or she, like most of us, start inhaling and exhaling with “chests breaths,” those quick and tense breaths that we are all guilty of. We learn chest breathing through life and all of life’s experiences. It’s time to take a deep breath and change that habit.

 

 

You might call that kind of breathing “labored breathing” and where do you also hear about labored breathing? When and while a woman is in labor! Hard, painful breaths are instructed as she pushes to bring life out into the world. Not a type of breathing we should all strive for in our daily lives, right? And speaking of hospitals, let’s all take a moment to remember all the horror stories we heard regarding Covid including desperate breathing issues and ventilator desperation stories. As I write this, a dear friend’s granddaughter is at a hospital as she was not breathing well. We are all hoping and praying that God will breathe life into her little lungs and send her on her way back home where she can do all those healthy baby belly breaths.

 

 

Webster defines the word “breathe” as “to draw air into and expel from the lungs; to inhale and exhale.” In order to achieve those big beneficial breaths mentioned above, it’s important to breath into your belly, pulling it back toward your torso, and then release that breath boldly and allow your belly to expand. Oh the horror, right? Aren’t we supposed to hold our stomachs in to achieve maximum style points? Yes and no, holding the stomach in has many benefits but try to relax it as you breathe and remember, the exhale is as important as the inhale.

 

This is true in the animal kingdom as well. When our beloved dog Nikki recently suffered a near fatal bout of pneumonia, our first clue that something was wrong was noticing her labored and unnatural breathing while she slept. It alarmed us and prompted us to get her urgent care. Nicki mentioned that one of her dogs has an enlarged heart, as does our Nikki, and we’ve both been told by our vets to count their breathing to make sure it’s not too labored and or fast.

 

The idea of breathing even makes its way into the world of sommeliers as it’s often said wine needs to “breathe” in order to develop its flavor and bouquet. We also use the word to express confidentiality or secrecy when we utter, “Don’t breath a word about it.”

 

 

We are often told to “just breathe” or “breathe deep” when things are going awry or we are feeling stressed and anxious and “take a deep breath” is often code for “calm the heck down” before being told to “take a breather.”  What does this tell us? It tells us breathing, but breathing right, is essential and key to healthy living both emotionally and physically.

 

I love when a message clearly conveys itself to me as breathing has the past few days. Even this morning as I played my morning meditation and reflection app, (“Pray as You Go” if you’re wondering…it’s short and it’s awesome!) I was first instructed to take in some deep breaths as I examined my week. It totally inspired an “I feel a blog coming” mood and it also reminded me that Jesus breathed on His disciples to calm their fears and inspire in them the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

 

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It doesn’t take a biblical scholar or rocket scientist to remind us that breathing is living and in order to live a healthy life, we’d do ourselves a big favor to breathe deep and fill those bellies with air. Take a breather this week and pay attention to how you breathe. Doing so just may take your breath away.

 

Unmasked and Unafraid October 19, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:16 pm

Halloween is quickly approaching and as much as I’m thrilled that, after a year of being masked up, kids can once again Trick-or-Treat this year and hopefully the only masks they’ll be wearing are those that go with their costumes. Still, let it be known I am not a Halloween fan. I don’t like anything ghoulish or scary and I really don’t like dressing up in a costume. In fact, almost any invite that requires a costume is almost certainly a “no” for me. Yes, I’ll do it for the most special of cases, but I will never choose to do it on my own or suggest it be done.

 

As a kid, this wasn’t necessarily the case as I have very fond memories of my simple either Tweedy Bird or Caspar the Friendly Ghost costumes that consisted merely of a flimsy yellow or white cape-like costume and a plastic face that was more Jason from “Friday the 13th” than anything friendly. Maybe the key word here is simple. The more elaborate the costume requirement, the less I’m prone to put it on.

 

If you don’t believe me on any of this, ask our daughter. She swears she doesn’t like Halloween much either and blames me. I was never that mom who went all out for her child’s Halloween costume but, I am also proud to say that one of her costumes was award winning. We still laugh about it today.

 

Our church was hosting a pre-Halloween fest for parish kids and being the dog lovers that we are, we (okay I) chose what was really a dog costume for my sweet daughter. It was a giant Milk-Bone dog biscuit that a real dog would wear horizontally on their long body (think maybe Lab or Golden Retriever) but our girl wore it vertically. I added some home-made ears out of one of her hairbands, a fake nose, a (gasp!) leash around her neck, and voila! The cutest costume ever was born. And get this; her unpretentious little costume won the costume contest that night! Yep, she beat out the most elaborate get-ups and came home top dog and dog-gone proud. You could say it was probably one of my proudest Halloween moments.

 

I’m also pretty proud of costumes my husband and another couple and I wore one year. She and I hand hand-painted a giant “Y,” “M,” “C,” and “A” on four separate white t-shirts and then we each donned either a cowboy hat, army helmet, hard hat, or police officer cap and became The Village People. We thought we were so clever (and what an easy costume!) but didn’t realize till later that many of the photos we took were of “ACMY” rather than “YMCA.” Oh well, give us points for creativity.

 

Yet another easy-peasy costume I put together for my hubby and I was “The Graduate.” He had recently attended an honorary university event and was sent an elaborate graduation gown and motar board to wear to it, which later made the perfect Halloween party costume with me on his side wearing an animal print pillbox hat, black pumps, and a cocktail dress. Yep, I was Mrs. Robinson! Here’s to you!

 

Finally, a dear friend and I once dressed as the then popular band The Black Eyed Peas by simply donning a painted on black eye and white t-shirts with a big “P” on them. Again, I’m all for simple.

 

So Carla, as you’re lying there on the couch show me on this puppet what you don’t like about costumes. This might be what a therapist would ask me in addressing my aversion to costumes. First and foremost I don’t like the hassle. Put me in scrubs and I’m a doctor or put me in a white jacket and white hat and I’m a chef. But, it ends there. I’m okay with conceptualizing something clever or elaborate but my creative juices dry up when it comes time to shop for all the necessary pieces.

 

 

I also don’t like attention and I don’t like pretending. I don’t like to pretend I’m someone I’m not and I certainly don’t like pretending I’m a sexy whatever at my age and cannot stand when women of a certain age put on the fishnets, bunny outfits, or hot cop with handcuffs costumes. Not a good look ladies; not a good look.

 

So there you have it…my take on what many of you might consider one of your favorite holidays. You have fun buying your costumes and I love you for it. I’ll enjoy looking at all your photos but until then I’ll be right here unmasked and unafraid.

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things October 3, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:33 pm

 

When I fly, I always like to pack a few snacks in my carry on. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, some kind of crunchy snack, and something sweet are my travel to go choices. This past week I included DOVE Promises, those little square pieces of chocolate that pack a punch. Much like Hershey’s Kisses, one or two Promises satisfy and gratify.  Each one also comes with a sweet quote inside their wrapper. The one I opened said “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” Snapple drinks do something similar under each cap, and that company brilliantly ties in the quote with their website.

 

You could say both of these are examples of how the little things in life can bring big chunks of joy. Bigger is not always better. Travelling along the eastern seaboard last week from Maryland to New Jersey I witnessed this geographically first hand. I found it fascinating that in 2.5 hours we drove through four states. In Texas, that wouldn’t get you from Austin to Dallas or Dallas to Houston. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas.

 

But back to the small things. There are so many small wonders in the world that we often don’t pay attention to. I’m thinking we should and what better time to start then now?

 

Take the Qtip. What would we do without them, right? This engineering feat was created in the 1920s for baby care and today more than 30 billion are sold each year. Each diameter of the cotton ends is the same for every single swab but they are not meant to be ear cleaners, even though 99 percent of us probably use them for just that. It’s worth noting that on every Qtip package is a warning against doing so. What else do we use these small wonders for? Applying make-up, stirring liquids, as fire starters with matches, and a host of other personal and ingenious uses.

 

Then there’s the Chinese take-out box. The iconic white boxes seem pretty unassuming to look at, but they are actually amazing little pieces of design. They’re cut from one piece of paper and folded, leaving no seams where liquids can’t seep out of. And, if you pop the wire handle off, they turn into a plate. Who knew, right?!  What we do know is that this box style is now used for not only food, but for boxing gifts, party favors, and a whole lot more.

 

The boxes are somewhat surprisingly an American creation, patented in 1894 by Chicago inventor Frederick Weeks Wilcox. An, funny that the little works of origami often contain American food, as Chinese-American cuisine is very different from the food you find in China. So in essence, you have American food in an American box. USA! USA!

 

 

On my trip I also realized I’m also a big fan of that little thing called a travel neck pillow. Yes, I know they are a bit cumbersome to carry, but boy am I always so grateful I have one once onboard. Thank you to whoever invented them! And thank you to whoever invented the apple corer and slicer that gives you eight perfect slices of an apple. Mine is shaped like an apple and I couldn’t love it more.

 

And lastly, two items we all use and love but maybe don’t give enough credit to for making our lives just a little bit better: Post It Notes and beverage collars, those cardboard cup wraps that are used everywhere coffee is sold.

 

I write this during the week that the Feast of St. Therese was celebrated. Therese, for those who don’t know, was known for her “little way.” St. Therese of Lisieux was a French Carmelite nun who died at the age of 24 in 1897 but her little life changed people in big ways and still does to this day. Therese believed that he actions were ways to let God’s love work through her towards others, regardless of how big or small they were. This philosophy is known as the Little Way and is about doing the smallest actions with big love. Therese lived a simple, hidden life of holiness and didn’t chase lofty achievements or merits. She even wrote about how much care she put into folding napkins at the dinner table.

 

St. Therese is one of my favorite saints and if I can employ her “little way” in even the littlest ways I’d be big-time happy.

 

In the end, let’s all remember that it really is the little things that matter. The little words and notes of praise or thanks. The little random acts of kindness. The little meals and little walks. The little quotes inside a little piece of chocolate. These are the things that make life sweet. What little things and small wonders come to mind for you?