Beyond Words

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

From Christmas to Chanukah December 18, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:37 pm



Happy Hanukkah!  What?  I’m not Jewish!  Nope, but as a Christian I know we owe a tremendous debt to our Jewish friends so I thought I’d take a break from my Christmas-themed posts and share a little Hanukkah history with you.


Today marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the eight-night Jewish “Festival of Lights,” which observers celebrate by lighting the candles on a menorah. As I write this and as you read it, Jews across the world are gathering to light candles and share blessings. We’ve all seen the tiered candelabras, now let’s learn about them.


It’s in honor of Judah Maccabee and his four brothers who lead a revolt against the Assyrian Greeks who had taken over Jerusalem.  The Maccabees won the war and regained control of their cherished temple, which the Assyrians had all but destroyed.  After cleaning it up, the Maccabees went to light a menorah lamp but could only find enough oil to last one night.  That’s when Jews believe a true miracle happened as it lasted eight nights, allowing them to make more oil.  This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights.


During modern day Hanukkah traditions, each night one candle on a special menorah called a Hanukkiah is lit.  There are a total of nine candles and there are blessings said with each lighting.  It all kinda reminds me of our Christian Advent wreaths, their candles, and the accompanying prayers said with the lighting of them.


It’s not surprising, as Christianity is rooted in Judaism, the least of which is God’s own son, Jesus Christ, who was Jewish.  Other teachings Christianity received from Judaism is our basic understanding of God, God’s covenant with His people, and the practice of assembling together for worship.  Christians do so on Sundays; Jews on their Sabbath, roughly observed from Friday evening until Saturday night.  The two faiths agree on many things.  For example, Christians accept the Old Testament and all its teaching as inspired, and both faiths believe in the perfect creation of the world by an infinite God, that Satan introduced sin into the world, that God judges sin, and that sins must be atoned for.  What most prominently separates the two is that Judaism does not accept the central Christian teaching that Jesus is the Messiah.  For most Jews, the coming of the Messiah or the messianic age is still in the future.


Judaism is the oldest of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, all of which serve only one God.  Judaism is also the parent of both Christianity and Islam.  Jews believe Yahweh, the only one God, created and rules the universe and revealed his law, the Torah, to the then Hebrews.  The Torah contains more than 600 commands, which are summed up in the Ten Commandments.  Sacred scriptures of Judaism are the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  The scriptures also form the biblical Old Testament but do not adhere to the Christian New Testament.


So how is Hanukkah celebrated?  First and foremost, it’s all about the oil; that sacred oil used in the Temple by the Maccabees.  Today Jews traditionally eat two foods, sufganiyot, which are like jelly donuts; and the more famous latkes, which are basically potato pancakes.  Both are fried in oil and are eaten throughout Hanukkah.




As with Christians and Christmas traditions, Jewish families vary in their Hanukkah traditions.  Two things that are pretty standard are the giving of gifts and playing the dreidel.  Gift giving is reserved for children, who receive a small present each night for the eight nights of Hanukkah.  Unbeknownst to me, however, is that the dreidel is actually a game.  Each side of one has a Hebrew letter that stands for the phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” which means “A great miracle happened here.”  Players start with the same number of tokens, which can be anything from pennies to candies to the traditional chocolate coins called gelt.  Players take turns rolling the dreidel, hoping they land on the side that allows them to take the “pot” in the middle.  The game continues until one player collects all the tokens.  Sounds fun to me!


Although we’ve all heard of Hanukkah, its fame is partially due to the fact that it falls so near Christmas.  It is not considered a major holiday by Jews and is nowhere near the ranks of Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah or Passover, which are much more important and honored holidays.


Finally, is it Hanukkah or Chanukah?  A Hebrew word, it has many English spelling variations, the most popular of which are Hanukkah and Chanukah. Traditionalists say the proper spelling of the word, which means “dedication” or “induction,” is “Chanukah” as it comes closest to representing the pronunciation of the Hebrew word and using Hebrew letters. “Hanukkah,” however, more accurately recreates the Hebrew spelling. However you spell it or however you say it, say it with respect.


So here’s to my Jewish friends. May your Hanukkah be blessed and may your year be full of joy. Mazel Tov!


Making a List December 16, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:58 pm

One of my many favorite things about this time of year is that I know every time I get in the car, Christmas carols can be found on the radio up and down the dial. Sirius/XM has stations playing everything from classics to country and one of our local stations always dedicates December to non-stop Christmas music. The classics bring back childhood memories, Mariah and Brenda get me singing along and bopping, and any song sung by a children’s choir melts my heart.


I also love Christmas movies and have watched my share of sappy but sweet Hallmark movies. Yes, I know, make fun of me but I’m guessing many of you have watched one or two or two dozen yourselves. All those “Christmas in the Rockies” and “A Crown for Christmas” flicks have somewhat the same plot line but I love them. They are uplifting, stress-free, and chalk-full of love and morals. I also love that other stations including UPtv, GAC, and Lifetime, are serving up their versions of Hallmark hall of famers. Even Netflix has a few!


So, what songs and movies are my favorites? I thought I’d make my list and check it twice and see how the two lists compare to yours. Let me know and let’s go!


Favorite Christmas Songs

“Away in the Manger.” Hands-down my favorite Christmas song. I especially love the line “But Little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”



“Feliz Navidad.” The Jose Feliciano version. Only.



“Little Drummer Boy” the traditional version and the amazing one by For King & Country.



“Do They Know It’s Christmas/Feed the World” by Band Aid. I remember when this event happened. How nice that we banded as one and weren’t so divided. And ask yourself, do they know it’s Christmas?


“The First Noel.” Always gets me.


“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee. A classic.



“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss does Santa.


“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.


“Angels We Have Heard on High” and its glorious “gloooooh…ria” chorus. 



“You Make It Feel Like Christmas” by Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. I love him and it’s a fun and bouncy little jingle.



“Sleigh Ride” and “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” by Darlene Love and the Ronettes.


“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. MC creates a classic. Who doesn’t love it?


“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole.


“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Whitney’s is gold but Carrie Underwood has a fabulous version too.



“Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” by Gene Autry.


“Christmas Time Is Here” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”


“Oh Holy Night” any traditional version.


“Walking in a Winter Wonderland” by Dean Martin. He will forever remind me of my dad and this song reminds me of him too.



As you can gather from the above, I’m not a big fan of classic carol remakes. I don’t mind an occasional Martina McBride or Kelly Clarkson version, but give me Bing and Brenda anytime. However, there are two remakes I am currently obsessed with by the amazing band For King & Country. Their versions of “Little Drummer Boy” and “Go Tell It on The Mountain” are worth a listen. They are powerful yet purposeful and give me chills.


And now…movies. Here are those that make my list:



“National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation.” Clark, I gotta say, your family follies are a Smith family Christmas tradition. We know it by heart and we laugh every time.



“Elf.” Buddy stole my heart and this movie is an annual must-see. Smiling is my favorite too Buddy.



“It’s A Wonderful Life.” Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. George Bailey not only inspired many, I named a dog after him years ago. Great message. Great movie.



“The Snowman.” This animated beauty should be watched by every child out there and its book is a great gift to go with it. Trust me on this.



“White Christmas.” Bing. Danny. Rosemary. Vera. The costumes. The singing. The magic.



“A Charlie Brown Christmas.” If you don’t know the history behind this classic, do yourself a favor and find it online. It will make you love Charlie and the gang even more and yeah, Linus really said that and the movie was really played annually on multiple stations, and no one was really offended.


“Miracle on 34th” Kris Kringle’s big debut so to speak and a reminder to believe and have faith.


“The Family Man.” Definitely not an upbeat Christmas flick but a new take on finding the meaning of life.


Yes, I’m aware “The Holiday,” “Love, Actually,” “The Christmas Story,” and “Diehard” didn’t make the cut. I do like the first two romantic comedies…don’t love them but like them…but the last two I’ll pass on. So many movies. So little time.


So there you have it…made my list and checked it twice. What’s on yours? I can’t wait to read them and your take on mine.




Tis the Season December 14, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:32 pm

Puttering around the house today as I baked and caught up on some DVR’d shows, I saw a commercial for Ronald McDonald House and I thought to myself, “what a truly awesome charity they are.” Providing safe housing and programs for parents, Ronald McDonald House programs are located near top children’s hospitals, allow parents who are far from home to stay close to their hospitalized child and benefit from the comforts of home without incurring hotel and food costs. It’s one of those places that if I were a gazillionaire, I would donate to in a heartbeat.


Tis the season for donations and donation requests. Every check out lane you go to you are often prompted or asked if you’d like to contribute to that store’s charity of choice. It’s hard to say no but it’s also hard to say yes to everyone and every need. Don’t get me wrong, I really like to donate to worthy causes, but the constant petitioning sometimes leaves me a little, well, uncharitable. And if I get one more packet of return address labels from a nonprofit asking for donations in the mail I’m going to scream!


So, how should one choose what charities to donate to? Most experts say the most important criteria is that you have a personal connection to it. You want to be able to not only donate resources, but your heart as well. I think of The Dog Alliance’s “Hounds for Heroes” program, which I donated to and volunteered at for years. I was passionate about the place and their mission until they made it just to difficult to do so and changed some of their vision as a whole. I still support “Hounds for Heroes” but my passion for the rest has somewhat waned. This is what nonprofits risk when they change and vocalize perhaps too much.



Most charitable organizations will agree that time is just as important as donating money and it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you simply can’t afford to give money. The first thing you should think about prior to making any charitable donations is your financial stability. Things like paying off debt, contributing to a savings plan, having adequate insurance, and building an emergency cash reserve should all be taken care of prior to considering donating any amount of money. Until then, that charity is sure to welcome your time and talents. 


There are so many charities that unless you have those you support and hold dear to your heart, it can be challenging finding one or more that fit your values and lifestyle. And, many of them are making tons of money despite the constant plea for help. Forbes magazine conducts an annual survey of America’s top 100 Charities based solely on private contributions and as luck would have it, released the 2022 survey yesterday. The Top 10 charities are:

  1. Feeding America – $4.6 billion
  2. United Way – 2.77 billion
  3. St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital – $2.42 billion
  4. The Salvation Army – $2.34 billion
  5. Direct Relief – $2.21 billion
  6. Americares – $1.22 billion
  7. Good 360 – 1.68 billion
  8. Goodwill Industries – $1.44 billion
  9. YMCA of the USA – $1.41 billion
  10. Habitat for Humanity – $1.27 billion


As I read this list, a few things came to mind. Number one, considering we are in a recession there’s a whole lot of money being donated! Not until #14, with Samaritan’s Purse at $953 million, was the total donated not in the billions. Also, I hate to admit it, but I look at this list and as I consider where to give this Christmas, those at the top of the list and taking in billions are probably not going to make my list of potential recipients. Somewhat surprising was that numbers 5, 6, and 7 are in the “International Needs” category. I don’t know about you, but I see and hear about a ton of needs right here inside our borders. Lastly, I was happy to see Samaritan’s Purse so high on the list, as they do critical and amazing work, and I was equally happy to see Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Catholic Charities come in at numbers 11 and 13, respectively. Both are important to our family. My husband spent much of his childhood inside his hometown’s Boys Club and as cradle Catholics, charities that align with our faith always align with our contributions.


With that being said and barring any natural disaster, I like my money to stay local and/or personal. Each year my husband and I make what we consider hefty donations to two charities each and one joint. We focus on our interests and how our lives have been impacted by certain organizations and go from there. 


In the past and possibly again this year, recipients have been:

  1. First Tee of Greater El Paso
  2. Painting Pandas
  3. Tunnel to Towers
  4. Faith-related charities, including our church, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Carmelites of Santa Fe, and Annunciation Home.
  5. Both of our alma maters, Niagara University and The University of Oklahoma, often times NU’s golf team and OU’s School of Journalism. We’ve also donated to our daughter’s sorority in the past.
  6. Dog-related charities, including Houston Hound and Beagle rescue, where we’ve rescued two of our beagles; The Dog Alliance and their wonderful “Hounds for Heroes” program; and my new-found charity, Living Grace Ranch, which provides a permanent residence for senior canines (homeless, abandoned, rehomed, or surrendered) that otherwise would live out their lives in municipal animal shelters or foster care programs.
  7. Boys and Girls Club of East Aurora, NY
  8. Scottish Rite Hospital of Dallas


As I mentioned earlier, if I had millions and in addition to all of the above, I’d also give to:

  1. The Caring Place
  2. Hope Alliance
  3. BiG at Brookwood
  4. Breakthrough Austin
  5. Ronald McDonald House
  6. Wounded Warriors
  7. Family Research Council
  8. Make A Wish


Most of my giving is of local or smaller in nature mainly because I know where our hard-earned money is going. I don’t want to pay for those address labels mailed to me; I want to pay for programs and services. One way to somewhat guarantee this happens is to give to a local chapter of a big charity or nonprofit as those funds may hopefully stay local and not end up in a national headquarters’ red tape wheel. Again, do your research!


Notice I wrote “charity or nonprofit” in the above paragraph. Even though the two are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two and the differences might make a difference in where you choose to donate.


A nonprofit is a type of charitable organization or foundation created for a specific goal and purpose other than to make a profit. Oftentimes this involves furthering a social cause such as improving literacy rates or helping those experiencing unplanned pregnancies. But, the term “nonprofit” doesn’t mean the organization can’t make a profit. It can use donations to pay employees and cover operating costs but if it brings in more money than it needs to do so, those excess funds must be used to further its said goals. Additionally, nonprofits can be trusts, corporations, or associations and whether a company qualifies as a nonprofit may differ between states.


A charity is actually a type of nonprofit organization that exists to benefit the community or serve a social or philanthropic purpose. It is a business created to raise money and help those in need and serves a specific cause and often provides a free service to the public through the use of funds raised. All charities are nonprofits and must meet certain IRS criteria.


Then there are philanthropies and foundations.




A philanthropy addresses the root cause of social issues and seeks long-term approaches. In addition to giving money or volunteering, some philanthropists participate in advocacy work. You could say charity is a short-term fix while philanthropy is a long-term commitment. That’s not always the case but often applies. Another way to think of it is that charity results in direct relief of suffering while philanthropy seeks out the root causes creating the suffering and tries to find strategic solutions. Philanthropy is focused on rebuilding and charity is focused primarily on rescue and relief.


A foundation is a charitable trust or nonprofit created to fund other organizations or individuals for charitable purposes, often by providing grants. Some foundations also participate in charitable programs or activities.


Interestingly, the original meaning of charity was “Christian love of one’s fellow” and is rooted in Old English. When “charity” entered the English lexicon by way of Old French’s “charite,” it evolved into the word we are familiar with today.


If you are blessed with plentiful resources to give this holiday season, know that it’s not only the season of giving but the season of scams. To avoid getting duped, follow your philanthropic passions but be sure to research that the charity you’re considering is efficient, ethical, and effective. Once you find the perfect one for you, make sure that 100 percent or at least the majority of your gift will go to their programs and not administrative costs. A good rule of thumb is to focus your donations on those charities that give no less than 75 percent of donations to programs and leave a scant 25 percent for overhead costs


The best advice I can give is to open your heart and give with only the best intentions to only the most deserving and in need organizations. Even the smallest donation will be appreciated and don’t forget your time and talents. Tis the season and part of the reason.















Holiday Hangover December 11, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:19 pm

I’m suffering from a hangover. Not an alcohol hangover; a socializing hangover. These past few weeks I’ve been blessed with some wonderful gatherings but have tied one on and gotten lit on socializing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all been fun and amazing, but it’s also taken a toll on my introverted heart. Yep, my name is Carla and I’m an introvert. Again, loved them all but now it’s time for me to decompress and recover. Even if just for one day.



For fellow introverts like myself, the holidays are especially challenging. It’s one social event after another and one “what am I going to make or buy for such and such?” It takes a toll on our over-thinking minds and maybe that’s why January 2 is rightly celebrated as World Introvert Day. Hallelujah! Time for a little prescription to slow down and realign. It’s not only the holidays that can do this to us though, conferences, weddings, reunions, and retreats can all give us a hangover. An introvert hangover.



Many of you who know me are probably thinking, “You’re not an introvert! You’re fun and interesting and outgoing.” Yes, I can be all of that, and actually cope pretty well in social situations; they just wear me out. I prefer safe spaces and among those I consider safe and who give me peace. In a nutshell, I treasure time alone, I hate small talk, and large crowds are a big “no thank you” for me. I’m not, however, shy or aloof, I simply sit back and observe before taking a social or high-stress jump.



I discovered much of this during the 2020 Covid lockdown. All that staying safe at home was actually pretty easy for me and quite cathartic. While many were going stir crazy having to stay home, I thrived. I nested. I walked. I wrote. I read. One book I discovered was “The Powerful Purpose of Introverts” by Holley Gerth and I’ve referred back to it many times. It’s changed my life. I learned that we introverts are indeed powerful, don’t need to become extroverts, and the world needs us.


In her book, Gerth offers a test to see if you’re an introvert and if so, how big of one. Out of a total score of 100, I’m 85 percent introvert. I’m in good company though, as introverts make up half of the population and fellow introverts include Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Joanna Gaines, C.S. Lewis, Max Lucado, Michael Jordan, and Jerry Seinfeld; the last of which shocked me but proves introverts aren’t what you think they are. And if that isn’t enough proof that introverts are indeed successful and ambitious, consider that 53 percent of millionaires identify themselves as introverts. Woohoo! We may come across as silent, but we are silently strong.


It was interesting to learn that Finland is known as the land of introverts. The Nordic country has an affinity for peace, quiet, and calm. Personal space is a great value and breaks in conversations are not seeing as uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Finland also tops the “World Happiness Report” list every year as the happiest country in the world. Introverts out there: be happy!


It all also explains why I prefer yoga over spin class and why I’m such a dog person. There are photos of me with our family dog when I was as young as three-years-old and I never felt at home or fell in love with a fitness class until I met yoga.



One common misconception is that introverts need to learn how to be extroverts and that you must be an extrovert to lead. Not only are both of these outdated and a bit insulting, there are inaccurate. Introverts have so many strengths, gifts, and skills that the world needs but they are often overlooked by the chatter and banter out there. We were created as introverts and there is no reason for us to become extroverts. We may go quietly about our way, but we make a difference in ways no extrovert can and the two…extroverts and introverts…can make a heckuva team.


As Gerth says, being an introvert isn’t a struggle, it’s a superpower and many of the traits of an introvert have my name written all over them.


  • We relish time alone but also love people, preferably in intimate and genuine small social settings. Still, time alone for introverts isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. We crave solitude and are never bored when alone. Introvert Emma Scheib of “Simple Slow & Lovely” says alone time is akin to air and water for her. It’s that important. It’s that beneficial. It’s something we can’t explain and extroverts will never understand.


  • We recharge on our own and don’t need the world to help us think and feel better. Self-care is trendy but introverts have been doing it all along.


  • We don’t mind being alone…at all..but we do appreciate good company. We actually “become” extroverted around people who bring us peace.


  • Certain people drain us while others energize us. We find people both intriguing and exhausting.


  • We’re great listeners but will speak our my mind when pushed. In fact, we’d rather say what’s on our mind than make small talk. On the flipside, listening can be challenging for extroverts.


  • We are reflective, introspective, think deeply, and often overthink, but this allows us to act intentionally and make rational and well thought out decisions…for ourselves and society as a whole. We are not slow thinkers; we are deep thinkers. My extrovert husband tells me to “land the plane” but sometimes my flight is a long one!


  • We have a knack for details and live a very detail-oriented existence. We are feelers and thinkers and excel in everything from accounting to artistry.


  • We value quality over quantity in relationships, don’t like surprises, are perfectionists, and often allow fear to get the best of us. Routines are our best friends.


  • We feel good when we turn inward, focus on ideas, have meaningful conversations, and do work that matters to us. We are motivated by internal rewards. All this inner-thinking also results in very creative imaginations.


  • We are very observant, perceptive, and catch things many miss. This allows us to ad depth and insights to conversations and we’re good at making meaningful connections.


  • We dread small talk but enjoy sharing helpful ideas and information. Much like Gerth, when I can, I bring along a “designated extrovert” to a socializing situation. This allows me to stand back, observe, and chime in when I feel the need while my “DE” can mingle and yack away. Many of my friends are introverts as are both my husband and daughter.


  • We often rethink what we did or said in a public or social setting and wonder if we should have done things differently.


  • We have boundless empathy, a deep desire to solve problems, and a unique drive to make a difference in the world.


  • We tend to revel in keeping up with current events sometimes even at the detriment of our sanity. Headlines and breaking news are daily norms but we can tend to want to fix everything and help everyone. Being a former broadcast journalist, I know this firsthand. Once a newsie always a newsie.


  • We listen and learn and pay attention…so much that that person you depend on to be there through thick and thin and when you need consistent and honest help is probably an introvert.


  • Friends are important to introverts, but true and trusted friends. We are not big on big groups. An introvert with one best friend can be less lonely than an extrovert with lots of acquaintances.


  • We don’t like being the center of attention but excel at supporting others. We’re okay with the fact that the talkative person may get the attention but thoughtful listeners build trust, likability, and solid relationships.


  • We sometimes find it difficult to let go of perfection and don’t like taking risks. We also tend to compare ourselves to others, fear change and rejection, and struggle with setting boundaries; the latter of which is important for anyone but especially for introverts. It’s imperative we remind the extroverts in our lives that we simply can’t do life at the same pace they can. They wouldn’t want to slow down to our pace so they shouldn’t expect us to keep up to theirs. Don’t apologize and don’t explain. You don’t need to prove or justify your needs.



All of this comes in handy and into play all over the world we live in, from families to friend groups, places of work to places of worship, teams we’re on to classes we’re in. Thanks to our powerful, analytical minds, introverts are great problem solvers and idea creators and are very resourceful. We also tend to like order and planning, both of which are critical skills extroverts as a whole are not strong in. Our knack for details allows the extroverts in the room to be the “big picture” guys and know we’ll take care of it from there. Our much needed and much desired solitude boosts productivity, sparks creativity, builds mental strength, and give us the opportunity to plan and produce. We bring calmness to a situation and direction to a board meeting. We make sure our pantries have what we need and we don’t feel the need to be the boss. In fact, today’s fast-paced and stressed-out culture needs what we offer perhaps more than ever.


Something else society seems to need is social media. Companies have entire departments dedicated to curating a social media presence and friends and family seem to be all over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the likes. Most introverts find social media overwhelming but not me. I actually enjoy my quiet time looking at pretty pictures, seeing new recipes, and learning it’s a friend’s birthday. I find it a safe and quiet space where I can share what I want and voice what I think if I choose. It’s almost like journaling to me.



For introverts and extroverts alike, it’s not about personality; it’s about how God made us and how our brains and nervous systems are wired.  Extroverts are wired to spend energy while introverts are wired to conserve it. Not to get too analytical (one of my strengths though!), basically extroverts thrive on dopamine and have more of it in their brains than introverts, who prefer acetylcholine, which is more active in introverts. Interestingly enough, social media is intentionally designed to release dopamine. Social events also flood the brain with dopamine, which may initially give us the energy to enjoy and get through them, but they do ultimately take a toll on us. Dopamine energizes extroverts but overwhelms introverts. As Gerth notes, it’s not about the people. It’s about our nervous system being overloaded by external stimulation, including very stimulating people we enjoy hanging out with. In short, dopamine is like caffeine while acetylcholine is like herbal tea. Hmmm…funny thing is I love coffee!



Ask an extrovert how they feel when they’re happy and they’ll likely say things like energetic, excited, and enthusiastic. Introverts will respond the likes of content, fulfilled, and satisfied. Extroverts need external stimulation to feel good while introverts get recharged from the inside out and fill our energy tanks in private or in the presence of maybe one or two trust allies. An introvert’s natural state of happiness is calm and content while an extrovert’s is enthusiastic and excited.  


But, even with all that dopamine and energy running inside them, extroverts aren’t the ones more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression. That would be introverts, likely due to our highly reactive nervous systems and strong sense of empathy. We introverts tend to be worry warts and excessive worry can lead to anxiety, depression, and other illnesses. We may not come across as very active, but our brains are constantly in overtime. Sadly, research has found that up to 70 percent of an introvert’s spontaneous thoughts can be negative. Raise your hands Negative Nancies. Remember that acetylcholine we talked about? Well, as Lindsay Dodgson explains in her article “What Everyone Gets Wrong About Introverts,” the acetylcholine brain pathway introverts use for processing is much longer and goes through the part of the brain that notices errors. This can not only make us glass half empty people, but may lead to us be more self-conscious and self-critical. Raising my hand again. But, extroverts are most likely to develop an alcohol addiction. No one’s perfect, right?



It’s for sure about worry with us, but also the dreaded “R” word: rumination, which is really just a fancy name for worry. With rumination, we focus on our circumstances and then go round and round a problem. We can learn something from our extrovert friends on this one. They are masters at getting their minds off unpleasant things by engaging in something fun or meaningful. We introverts on the other hand tend to, well, ruminate. As my extrovert husband tells me again and again, “don’t let it take up space in your brain” as well as “don’t overanalyze it, Carla. Make a decision and move on.” Easy for him to say.



An extrovert may occasionally have introvert tendencies or moods and vice-versa, but in general you are who you are and there’s little likelihood someone will do a complete 180 and switch. In fact, studies indicate our overall temperaments, including being an introvert or extrovert, don’t generally change. What is interesting however, is that as we age, we act more introverted. Maybe even extroverts get tired of the chaos and BS!


So, to all my fellow introverts out there: embrace your introvertness! It’s okay to prefer a quiet life. It’s okay to want to stay in. In fact, in many ways it’s courageous as it requires you to confront your own thoughts, hearts, and souls. It might not get a million likes and followers or be trending, but a quiet life is brave and intentional. It’s about value not volume. It’s in that quiet that we create, recharge, innovate, plan, and dream. We realign with our truest selves and hear the whisper of God. He made us this way and is happy to see us thriving. Think about it.



St. Nick, Advent, and Why Do We Give Gifts? December 6, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:13 pm

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! A popular guy the world over, he really was a saint…in so many ways. Considered the “first Santa,” good ole St. Nick wore a red coat like Santa, had a white beard, and loved to share and give. He’s also mentioned in the classic “The Night Before Christmas.” Who knew?!


A very rich and generous man, St. Nicholas heard that a poverty-stricken dad was going to have to sell his daughters into slavery so the saint that he was he secretly tossed bags of coins into their house. The money landed by their stockings, which were traditionally hanging on the fireplace to dry. This, my friends, is why we hang stockings on fireplaces and put treats in them!




And why do we give treats and presents? Well, think of the 3 Kings, or Wise Men as they’re traditionally known. They brought gifts to baby Jesus and by giving to others, we model their generous act. As I mentioned yesterday in my blog, our daughter only gets three presents at Christmas, which has been our family tradition all her life. If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they are certainly good enough for the rest of us!



I’m writing this in what many Christian churches call Advent. This past Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent and on it a second candle on an Advent wreath was lit. The purple candle is called the “Bethlehem Candle,” demonstrates Faith, and reminds us of Mary and Joseph’s treacherous journey to Bethlehem that was filled with worry but faith.


On the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the season of Advent four weeks out from Christmas, a purple “Prophet’s Candle” is lit as we focus on Hope and Jesus’ coming. This coming Sunday’s pink “Shepherd’s Candle” reminds us of Joy and the birth of Jesus. On the last Sunday of Advent, the “Angel’s Candle” of Peace is lit. Some Advent wreaths also add a fifth white “Christ Candle” is the middle, which is lit on Christmas. Advent officially ends on Christmas Eve.


The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” During Advent, Christians patiently await the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. An Advent wreath is made up of various evergreens, representing continuous life, as well as four candles that symbolize the four weeks of Advent. Three candles on the wreath are purple and one is pink. They signify Christ being the light of the world and the contrast between darkness and light.


Growing up my family didn’t really celebrate Advent and my childhood home never had an Advent wreath or the other popular item, an Advent calendar. We basically had Jesus and Santa.



All of these things explain some age-old traditions and also demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. It breaks my heart to see the real reason for the season become increasingly “offensive” and secular, and my hope is that by sitting back and understanding why we have days off in December and why stores love this time of the year, we will realize that there is so much more to it all than just time off, shopping, and Santa. I have hope.


Traditionally Christmas December 5, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:50 pm




I saw a message the other day on my neighborhood NextDoor site with a post from a woman who wrote she’s a mom who loves to decorate and put up tree ornaments during the holidays to supplement her income. I thought, “genius!” Boy would I love to put her talents to work. Don’t get me wrong, I love our Christmas decorations and all our beloved ornaments, but they are quite a quiet stress. The weary world rejoices? Maybe when you’re all done decorating. Amiright?


With that being said, what are your thoughts? Do you happily anticipate the holiday décor deluge or do you quietly dread doing so? I’m totally somewhere in the middle and each year I bring them out and put them up. And, in perfect sync with my OCD mind, most of our décor is grouped: nativities, snowmen, nutcrackers, angels, reindeer, Santas, and even little white things. Our mantel is too and is one of my favorites.



  My mother-in-law started me years ago collecting Byer’s Choice Carolers and to this day they sing away on our mantel and still remind me of her. I throw in our year-round golfer caroler cuz why not and I have a separate girl caroler in our kitchen cuz she’s a cooking caroler. She stands next to my cooking Santa, cooking Mrs. Claus, and cooking nutcracker. Again, all with their like buddies. What’s on your mantel? Do you decorate by theme?



Then there’s the tree. We are a real tree family but every year I debate suggesting a fake one. And then, our real tree goes up, is adorned with treasured ornaments, and I’m always grateful for a real one. Is your tree real or fake…em I guess “artificial” is the PC name. Silly me. (Bonus tree info: if you’re looking for a beautiful kid’s holiday book, check out “The Night Tree.” They’ll love it and you’ll love it.) 



 Above is the beginning of my brother-in-law’s tree. He starts out with golf course bag tags from all over and then adds traditional ornaments. It’s a very fun theme and one he really enjoys doing. As for our ornaments, they are all very sentimental. No fancy or themed-tree in our house. We have ornaments from the beginning of our married life, ornaments of and for our daughter including her first one and many she made, some from our own childhoods, tons from our travels, others were gifts, and the rest are just a potpourri of memories. Our topper is a beautiful angel I bought our first year of marriage and despite a fall one year that broke her head off (easily glued back together), she still stands strong and is very special to me. Something else that’s very special to me is the memory I have of our childhood tree always having one of those old-school star toppers. What about you? What’s your topper? Does your tree have a theme? 




Tradition has it, that regardless of what kind of tree you have, gifts go under it. Where tradition bends a bit, is when those gifts are opened. We open on Christmas Eve but I know many of you open them Christmas Day. One tradition we have in our family is that Kristen gets three presents and three presents only. That’s been the case since she was old enough to remember and is the case still today in her adult years. It seems like so many kids get anything and everything they want and under the tree is a somewhat obscene pile of gifts, but when Kristen was a baby I read the “only three gifts” story and it’s simply that if three were good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for us. It makes shopping a bit easier and a bit more intentional. 



Last but not least, there’s the baking. Raising my hand here in full disclosure that I am not a baker. I have some traditional goodies I make each year, and thankfully my husband and daughter’s favorite is my Holly Treats, shown above, that are similar to Rice Krispie Treats and just as easy to make. I also have a really good and pretty simple recipe for Ginger Snaps that a former neighbor shared with me.



A yummy tradition I don’t make (maybe this year!) but always have around are Biscochitos. Bisco what? These yummy cookies are a Santa Fe and New Mexico tradition that my mom always made as did moms and grandmas across my hometown. Similar to a sugar cookie or Snickerdoodle but with anise, Biscos are Christmas and it’s just not Christmas without them.



 For me, it’s all about memories made and making more. It’s never an easy task to decorate for the holidays, but the thought of not doing so is not an option. Take your time and think about why you’re doing it. Not for show and not for dough…unless it’s cookie dough. Nope, you do it for your family and for Him. We may be weary through it all, but we can still rejoice.



That’s pretty much the message in a popular Bible verse. It is one of the most popular scriptures and is often quoted in both secular and non-secular worlds. It talks about being patient, kind, and honest and not being envious, proud, or rude. It was read during my wedding and I had to memorize it to be initiated in my college sorority. It is, 1 Corinthians: 13. So many of us have heard it, know it, and love it. But, did you know there is a Christmas version? It’s not found in the bible, but it’s well worth a read. Enjoy!



1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version


If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls

but do not show love to my family, I am just a decorator.



If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of Christmas cookies and them on a beautifully

adorned table but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook.



If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, carol in a nursing home, and donate to charity

but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing.



If I attend holiday parties but do not go to church, I have missed the point.



Love stops cooking to hug a child.

Love sets aside decorating to kiss a spouse.

Love is kind during the holidays though harried and tired.



Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas place settings,

perfectly strung outdoor lights, or a picture perfect tree.



Love doesn’t ask family to get out of the way but is thankful they are in the way.



Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.



Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.



Love never fails, even at Christmas.