Beyond Words

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

When Life Gives You Lemons April 26, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:41 pm

Is it just me or does it feel like everyone you know is dying to be out and about? After more than two years of whatever you want to call it, people are ready to be out, out and about, and out loud. In person weddings are back, lunches are planned, travel is unmasked, and if you haven’t noticed, fashion is also on board. Look around and you’ll see head to toe clothing of bright colors and patterns. It’s as though designers felt the wave coming and we’re all jumping on board the ship of perky normalcy. I’m in!


Just today one of my favorite bloggers, Cathy Williamson of The Middle Page, posted the above vibrant and fun lemon bedecked Alice & Olivia blouse. I love anything lemon and love this blouse. It screams joy and optimism and it screams spring and summer. No mellow yellow here!


I’m here to say lemon is the color and topic du jour of late. I’ve seen everything from lemon bread recipes to lemon plates to lemon scented everything on blogs and sites everywhere. It’s also a color that reminds us of sunshine and cheer, both of which we’ve all be craving and needing.



I’m currently working on a blog about color and how it affects our mood and our world in general and have learned that yellow carries a positive connotation that conveys a joyous, happy mood and that wearing it creates an open atmosphere with people around you. Unfortunately not everyone can pull off a bright or mustard yellow top or look as regal as the always stunning Duchess of Cambridge in the above Rocksanda dress. If you’re like me and have skin with yellow undertones, be careful. Instead of choosing a full on yellow blouse, maybe go with something more along the lines of the above lemon one. Bees and daisies are good options too as are yellow accessories. A little yellow can go a long way. Be careful but have fun with it!



Kathy Womack

Fun. We’ve been missing it in groups and gatherings and who can blame us? Our country is imploding and the world is on fire, but we all desperately need a day, a night, maybe even a week of fun and fellowship.  In person. In sight. Smiling. Happy. Relieved. It might seem like a luxury and sadly a bit unnatural, but it’s what we crave and what we need.  It kinda reminds me of a famous club that began in a similar fashion: people wanting people.



We’ve all seen them: big groups of older women wearing big red hats and lots of purple. You may have heard about The Red Hat Society, but its history might surprise you. No, they’re not a cult and they’re not crazy, they’re simply women enjoying life and enjoying friendship. Founded in 1998, the RHS was formed because we all need a recess from the cares and duties of everyday life and it took one woman to see this and do something about it. Women tend to give their all to everyone and everything except themselves, and those Red Hatters discovered that having fun with like-minded women does the body, mind, and society good.


In the fall of 1997, Sue Ellen Cooper bought an old red fedora for $7.50 from a thrift shop and was inspired by it and the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph that says in part:


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.


Love. It!


Cooper loved it too and used it and the hat as a way of encouraging a friend who was turning 50 to stay youthful and spirited. Maybe even learn to spit! She duplicated that gift upon request several times and soon her squad was donning red hats and wearing purple outfits to their get togethers. The group grew in popularity by word of mouth and gained national attention when an article on it was published in The Orange County Register and picked up by newspapers across the country. The rest is red-hatted history and since its founding, RHS has grown to more than 25,000 members worldwide and Cooper has written two best-selling books.



Call them what you want, but they get it. They get that socializing is essential. l can only help but wonder what all those Red Hatters did the past 2+ years. I’m guessing they Zoomed in their red hats and masked up at their coffees, but are now thrilled to travel and attend theatre events once again together and in person. We need people (and this coming from a very comfortable nesting introvert) and we need bright colors in our world. It’s time to buy the hat, call the friends, wear the purple, plan the party, go to that book club or spin class, pop that golden yellow bottle of Veuve, use all the colors in that yellow box of crayons, and color your world and your life again. And maybe make some Limoncello after the past two years of lemons.


Hop to It April 10, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:00 am

Easter Sunday is one week away so as we enter Holy Week, I thought I’d share with you some fun tidbits on some fun and popular things we think of when we think of Easter. From the Easter Bunny to Jelly Beans and more, have fun learning and sharing the stories behind each of them.


Easter Bunny

Let’s hop right to it with the beloved Easter rabbit, AKA the Easter Bunny. Much like Santa Claus and Christmas, rabbits have nothing to do with the real meaning of Easter, Jesus’ resurrection, but like other Easter favorites they do represent “new life,” which is what Easter is really all about.


Easter always occurs in spring and spring is when the weather gets warmer, flowers start to bloom, and animals come out of hiding after a long winter of hibernation. Lots of animals, including rabbits, are born in the spring and this is likely why bunnies go hand-in-hand with Easter.



Pine Tree Crosses

Did you know pine trees have crosses? I learned this last year but surprisingly never knew this growing up even though I did so in the Rocky Mountains where there are many pine trees. Apparently pine trees start their new growth right about now and their tallest branch shoots forth and upward and forms the shape of a cross. The golden-hued shoots first form vertically followed by side buds, which eventually form branches and new growths that resemble a cross.



They start slow and small, but as the days get closer to Easter, the tallest shoots branch off and form the familiar Christian symbol leading some believers to say “even trees know it’s Easter!” The fact that this happens around the Easter season is likely pure coincidence, but who doesn’t love a wonderful legend? The crosses are more prominent and more readily seen on Loblolly Pines in the southern U.S. and on Ponderosa Pines in the west but can also be found on a variety of other pines.



Easter Eggs

So, what about Easter eggs? Well, eggs generally represent new life and lots of animals like birds and lizards are born from eggs and many of them are born in the spring. And if you think about it, Jelly Beans (one of my favorite candies) are oval-shaped just like eggs so it’s no coincidence they are an Easter basket tradition.



Easter Lilies

Jelly Beans are are a favorite of mine, as is another Easter regular: the Easter Lily. Every year I buy myself one and even a grocery store variety is sufficient in that any lily smells divine and fills a room with its own heaven-sent scent. I can smell their fragrance just looking at the picture above. But why do we only enjoy them at Easter?


Traditionally, the trumpet-shaped white blooms symbolize purity, virtue, innocence, hope, and life…the very spiritual essences of Easter. They’re mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and are referenced several times in the Song of Solomon as well as in the Sermon on the Mount. Their religious tie-in goes further however.



Often called “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies were said to be found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s agony. Tradition has it beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in His final hours. Today churches commemorate this belief by filling altars and aisles with Easter Lilies. The flowers have also played significant roles in tales concerning motherhood, making them fitting symbols of new life at Easter.




Lastly, how exactly did ham earn the right of meat of choice at many an Easter table? Tradition has it that hogs were slaughtered in the fall but due to lack of electric refrigeration, any meat that wasn’t eaten fresh in the cold months was cured so it would keep longer and be edible in the spring. It just so happened that, because curing takes a while, initial hams were ready right around Easter. Thankfully today we have the finest of refrigeration so hams of all sorts can be found year ‘round. Still, whether honey-baked or smoked, chances are ham will be enjoyed by many.


So there you have it, all things Easter wrapped up nicely in a virtual basket of info. I hope you learned something, enjoyed it, and have an Easter season filled with hope, love, and lots of Jelly Beans!


A Maid for Self-Made Success Story April 7, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:20 pm

Sometimes things…and people…aren’t what or who they appear to be. That is just one of many fascinating things I garnered from the intriguing Netflix series “Maid” and even more so from the thought-provoking book by Stephanie Land that it’s based on. I don’t often binge a series or feel like I can’t put a book down, but that was the case with both of them.


In short, it is a true story about Land’s life, who at 28 saw her dreams of going to college and becoming a writer dissolve after a summer fling resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. God bless her for choosing life and keeping her precious baby, but before long she found herself scraping by after leaving her abusive ex-husband and writing off her quirky mom and unreliable dad. She took a job as a housekeeper and from there it was all hard work and low pay but a will to survive and succeed.


When I bought the book I knew the premise of it but what she sees and the obstacles she faces were mind-boggling. Land tries incredibly hard to live honestly and honorably on the minimal means she provides and on what is provided for her and her young daughter. She is qualifies for food stamps, WIC coupons, and government housing but constantly has to prove her worth…or in her case, non-worth. Navigating the many rules and regulations associated with government funding…including finding day cares and housing that would even accept payment in the form of that funding…was as back-breaking as her job. It is truly alarming how hard she had to fight to receive help even as she faced the stigmas encountered of the working poor.


“I had to work constantly. I had to prove my worth for receiving government benefits. I made too much money to receive Medicaid.” And yet, she could hardly pay her bills. Getting approved for any government assistance also meant filling out loads of paperwork, meeting with often condescending government employees, standing in an endless array of lines, missing work to do so, dealing with constant illnesses her daughter picked up at day care and their mold-infested apartment, and pretty much jumping through constant hoops while juggling a very physically demanding job. Every day she hurt inside and out.


She had few friends as she was embarrassed to befriend anyone and have to come clean about her cleaning job. Still, she never gave up on her dreams of going to college and is the first to admit she didn’t fit the government assisted typecast in many ways when she writes, “When people think of food stamps, they don’t envision someone like me: plain-faced and white; like the girl they’d known in high school or like a neighbor. Someone like them. This makes them nervous. With one lost job, one divorce, they’d be in the same place as I was.”


“They” here meaning the thousands living paycheck to paycheck then and even into today as inflation continues to rise as do groceries, gas, and a host of other life necessities. In a different sense however, it can also mean those Land cleaned for and for who life wasn’t always as pretty as the picture. As a matter of fact, it was often dirty and full of dirty little secrets.


This part of her story amazed me and had me wondering, “what does this tell us all?” I know! I know! Raising my hand. It serves as a healthy reminder that the grass ain’t always greener yet sadly we all strive for those big lawns, big paychecks, and big houses. Many of those big houses with big lawns (she served numerous times as a gardender too) paid for with big paychecks that Land cleaned were homes to people who shared Land’s aches and pains and health problems. And love? Land’s meager apartments contained more love inside than all the mansions she cleaned.


“Living with illness or pain was part of my daily life, part of the exhaustion. But why did my clients have these problems? It seemed like access to healthy foods, gym memberships, doctors, and all of that would keep a person fit and well. Maybe the stress of keeping up a two-story house, a bad marriage, and maintaining the illusion of grandeur overwhelmed their systems in similar ways to how poverty did mine.”


Hello, it’s reality calling. Time to pick up.


Basically, what she learned is a lesson to us all: the upper-middle class and the rich have a whole lot of problems and spend a whole lot of energy hiding their imperfections and guarding their secrets. “Rich people still have problems and lack something,” she writes. “They hide in dark corners and self-help books and maybe have longer hallways and bigger closets to hide the things that scare them.”


As startling as that is to read, I would venture to say each of you know at least one person…probably more…similar to who she writes about. Maybe it’s a neighbor. Maybe a family member. Maybe a friend. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s way more prevalent than we’d all care to admit.


And yet, we just keep racing and chasing and buying and bingeing. All the while hoping that new house, new toy, or new spouse will bring us the happiness and health we long for. Newsflash and spoiler: that doesn’t always happen.


“If we only had these things I thought, we would be happy,” Land writes about her and her daughter’s humble and minimal belongings. “Most of my clients had these things-things I yearned for in those dark nights sitting up alone-and they did not seem to enjoy life any more than I did.”





Read that again and remind yourself that Land is doing it all alone…a single mother barely making it by and yet never giving up. Being a single mom is hard enough; doing so like Land did is commendable on so many levels and yet earned her very little, if any, downtime and me time. Time most of us take for granted. Scanning recipes online? No way. Bingeing something on a smart TV? Nope. Strolling leisurely through Target or Trader Joe’s? Negative. Being a book lover and considering Land is a writer, it killed me most when she wrote reading a book was a luxury she couldn’t afford.


“Time lounging to read a book felt overly indulgent; almost as though such leisure was reserved for another class,” she wrote. Pretty sure she’s not talking about a classroom.


Don’t get me wrong, “Maid” is not a depressing story by any means as there are many beautiful and inspiring moments throughout. What it is, is a first-hand and honest account of what workers like Land go through day after day and week after week. They are people we all know and yet perhaps don’t really know. This includes both those living in what we assume to be perfect little worlds and those laboring to improve their worlds. Most assume those homes are happy ones and many might assume those workers are either doing okay or living off the government. In reality, neither is 100 percent true.


So, the next time you’re driving by mansions on the hill or through secure suburbia, keep in mind that behind and inside those walls life may not be as perfect and trouble-free as you think. And most of all, when you see someone less fortunate but hard working keep in mind that they have dreams; dreams of hearing and thinking “you MADE it!” and maybe retiring from being a maid. Stephanie Land is proof that it can and does happen. You could say the former maid’s circumstances and results are what dreams are made of.