Beyond Words

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

A Bird’s Eye View January 17, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:47 pm

Original art courtesy Mollie Holton

Sometimes the weirdest things happen and coincidence comes into play in the darndest ways. I was in the middle of researching this blog on birds when my husband texted me a video of a bird retrieving a little piece of food that was elaborately locked in, what seemed like, an impenetrable container. But the bird easily opens each lever and bolt and eats the food. Moral of the story? Birds are smart! So much for “bird brains!”



They are also very symbolic. You’ve probably heard the belief that “Cardinals appear where angels are near” and what better symbol of anything anywhere than the proud American Bald Eagle? I learned from that from mythology to art to poetry to literature to religion, birds have always been a part of our world, every single continent has birds, and every civilization encounters them. What other group of animals has such a widespread devotion that watching them is a popular hobby? Think about it, countless songs are about birds and countless stories are dedicated to them.



My mamma loves birds. Growing up we had several yellow canaries that were so beautiful and sang divinely. She also always has a hummingbird feeder and several bird houses. My husband recently became a novice bird watcher. He’s bought a bird feeder, has a bird identification book, and sits outside watching and naming them. He’s become quite the “eagle eye!”




This kinda all started for me when last week, one of my favorite bloggers, authors, and happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, informed her readers that the bluebird is a symbol for happiness, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.


What comes to mind when you think of the color blue? The endless sky and calming oceans, right? Blue is often connected to serenity, calmness, and gentleness. All of those things make us happy so how fitting that the bluebird is connected to joy and optimism. Bluebirds are also considered the quintessential songbird and their cheerful singing just adds even more joy and happiness to their brilliant blue plumage and pedigree. What’s equally interesting is that the bluebird as we know it is found only in North America.



Then there is that famous cardinal. Considered to represent a loved one who has passed, when you see one it said to mean that loved one is visiting you. Kinda magical; kinda creepy. It’s what I call the “daddy cardinal” that this pertains to, as the males are the pretty red ones. Not fair, right? This is also the case with peacocks. Those beautiful fanned out tails? They belong only to male peacocks. Interestingly, peacocks don’t really sing; they let out a wail that sounds like a cat’s meow.



On that note…have you ever had a bird that incessantly bangs up against a window? If it’s a cardinal (and maybe other types), it’s probably a male as they fiercely defend their breeding territory and when they see their reflection on a glass surface, they will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder. This is taking “take someone under your wing” to a whole new level! We’ve experienced this in a previous house and it’s maddening. I’ve never learned how you can avoid this either.



If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite bird is a sandpiper. Found on beaches and usually in groups, I love how the little birds walk so quickly along the sand and can watch them all day long. They are very busy birds and collect food as they move along the water and sand, where they prefer to be. They don’t fly very high and not only are they adorable, I discovered they are a symbol for problem-solving and achieving goals. I’m all in!



Gray Malin

I also have an affinity for flamingos and I’m not entirely sure why other than I love their bright pink color, stately stature, and the fact that if I’m seeing them, I’m most likely at a tropical destination; especially considering that I’m not a zoo person. In true “ugly duckling” fashion though, their pink color, which they don’t sport at birth, takes years to appear. For this reason, flamingos symbolize potential as well as balance, fun, and flamboyancy. All make perfect sense, right? They have forever inspired the hearts and minds of artists, photographers, and writers and are found in tropical and subtropical regions on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They have intense courtship and parenting rituals and are often found in large flocks. So uncomfortable with solitude and small groupings are they that zoos often hang mirrors in their areas to give the impression of a large flock.



So, what is it about birds that we love so much? Not only are so many of them God’s glorious colorful creations, as the above photo shows, but maybe it’s also the fact that they can fly, symbolizing freedom, imagination, and possibility. Or maybe we just love their occasional fragility and enchanting singing? As I wrote earlier, birds have been significantly relevant throughout the ages. Ravens were very significant in Norse mythology and the crane is seen as a symbol of happiness and eternal youth in Japanese culture. We’ve all seen those elegant paper cranes, but did you know paper and non-paper ones are often given as gifts to newlywed or elderly couples as it’s believed they will bring good luck to recipients. Two other areas where birds are extremely significant are with Native Americans and in scripture.



Tim Hightower

When you buy something made by a Native American, there’s a good chance a bird will be somewhere on or in it. They are highly revered by tribes and pueblos and many are connected with weather. Others represent power and confidence. The giant mystical Thunderbird has a legend all its own and according to myth, the Painted Bunting was given its beautiful colors by the Great Spirit.



Speaking of spirit, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove.


“And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven saying ‘You are My beloved Son and in You I am well-pleased.” Luke 3:22


Birds appear throughout the Bible and in various forms and function, starting with Genesis where “every winged bird according to its kind” were created. To this day, a dove is almost a universal symbol of peace and hope and it all started in that same first book of the Bible. A dove also signaled to Noah that it was safe to leave the arch and eagles way back then symbolized hope and strength.


 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31


In fact, “God feeds all the birds every day and not one millionaire could do so for even one day.”



You’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together” and it’s true! Birds symbolize community, family, parenthood, and even romance as they tend to form strong bonds with their mates. We’ve all seen a famous V-shaped group of birds all flying in perfect unity and formation. Think of a bird nest too. So fragile yet so important. It’s no surprise we call being comfortable in our homes “nesting.” No one loves nesting more than me and I love to feather my nest!



There is literally no shortage of stories and legends regarding birds. Dreaming about a bird is seen as a message from your subconscious or as a sign of what you desire most. Then there’s the beloved yet mythical Phoenix that emboldens us to overcome a seemingly insurmountable setback. This born again bird may date back as far back as ancient Egypt. And idioms? I’ve incorporated several in this blog, but what about “as the crow flies,” “early bird,” “night owl,” and even the old “chicken crossed the road” joke?




So, the next time someone calls you a “bird brain,” thank them and remind them that by “killing two birds with one stone” you were able to do two things instead of just one and that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” reminds you that what you already have is more valuable than forever longing for something more. By doing all of this, you will have a “bird’s eye view” of life and may just sour like an eagle.



Fun Fact About Birds

Birds are animals with feathers.

All birds have feathers.

Birds are the only animals that have feathers.

All birds hatch eggs.

Birds don’t have teeth.

All birds have two wings and two legs.

Birds have hallow bones, which helps them fly.

Not all birds can fly, including ostriches and penguins.

There are more than 9,000 kinds of birds.

The largest bird is the ostrich.

The smallest bird is the hummingbird, which can fly backwards.

Scientists a long time ago built airplanes by studying how birds fly.



Bird Symbolism and Association

Cranes: peace, blessings, good luck

Eagles: courage, rebirth, power

Owls: insight, wisdom, death

Swans: romance, purity

Sparrows: productivity, diligence, creativity

Peacocks: serenity, luxury, vanity

Nightingale: anticipation, love, secrets

Hummingbirds: joy, love, healing

Falcons: longevity, victory, nobility

Crows: intelligence, curiosity, adaption

Cardinals: faith, balance, romance

Bluebird: joy, honesty, harmony


Post-Holiday Decor January 11, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:32 pm

Traditional Home

As we watched the college football National Championship a few nights back (yikes TCU!), my hubby and I both commented on how clean, calm, and uncluttered our rooms felt after packing up all the Christmas décor. Yes, we love it all but it does seem a bit tranquil once they’re gone. Right? Maybe, maybe not as apparently not everyone thinks so.


This surprised me as I read “The Cozyminimalist’s” recent blog where in it, author Myquillyn Smith included a section asking readers “Miss Your Christmas Tree?” Surprisingly many people say their house feels a bit blah and empty after taking down trees, decorations, and all things Santa and nativities. I found this so interesting and loved her interesting advice.


If your house feels a bit blah after taking your Christmas tree down, you’re not alone writes Smith. In fact, it might feel sad, empty, and lifeless. But there are things you can do to replace it in some way. Let’s start with sad as your home in general is suddenly void of sparkle and light. Think about it, all those twinkly lights and sparkly ornaments added a sense of joy, light, coziness, warmth, and even a bit of charm and fairy-tale. You can’t replace them all but you can see the light.



Most of us don’t realize how important lighting is in a room. I for one do not like overhead lighting and instead prefer lamps. The affect good lighting has on us and in a room when done right is both cozy and classy but when you remove it like you do with a Christmas tree, that warmth suddenly disappears. Easy fix here. Add more lamps in your room and turn off those overhead lights. Include reading lights, sconces, and maybe even some remote-control candles. Fireplaces also add light and warmth.


That space where your tree was probably feels a bit empty now too as the scale of it filled the room and added a sense of balance. No worries. All you have to do is add a large-scale item or two!



Jim Dine artist/Bunny Williams Interior Design

In general, scale is a great way to add interest to any room and large items, risky as they may be if incorrectly used and incorporated, add presence to a room and their own substantial style. In most rooms that once hosted a Christmas tree, the largest item in them is a sofa or maybe some sort of entertainment center or shelving. Keep them but add something else. Probably nothing as substantially-sized as a Christmas tree, but think large rug, piece of art, chair, or mirror. Less is more however, in that using less décor but large décor makes a room striking rather than cluttered.



Present Season

Your ultimate goal with all this is to bring life back into the room you’re feeling is suddenly void of it. Christmas trees are essentially life and big green plants (even fake ones), so why not consider adding a live tree or large plant with a substantial and unique planter to the room? Most designers and home experts agree that almost every room in a house needs some type of greens, whether it’s plants or vased flowers, as they literally bring life into a room.


Something else I like to do once the Christmas decorations are packed away is rearrange things. Move that sofa and rug, rearrange seating areas, and even reconsider coffee table groupings and mantel décor. Doing so makes a room and a house feel new and what better time to do so than at the start of a new year? Have fun with it and keep in mind you can switch things again for spring cleaning. Until then, see you next year Old Tanenbaum.







All It’s Cracked Up to Be January 2, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:39 pm

Awwww…a brand-new year. Always a time to look back and look forward as we wrap up another holiday season both literally and figuratively. Whether you’re still celebrating or are moving on, you’re probably also thinking ahead to the new year now upon us and perhaps even all those New Year’s Resolutions you might have made. I prefer calling them “intentions,” as I always have right and good intentions to make them happen. One of my annual New Year’s resolutions is to learn something new and I’ve been pretty successful following through. Last year I boogie-boarded for the first time. I also choose a word for the year. For 2022, my word was “pause,” which worked so well for me I might even keep it around this year.



Speaking of words, have you seen the above pic making its way around social media and the internet? Did you see your four words? Mine are Connect, Strength, Change, and Lessons. Love them all but as a creature of habit, the third one might be the most challenging. Here’s hoping the second and fourth ones will help me through it all!


If I’m being real, I really don’t like change. I like routine and plans. But, when necessary, I have and can adapt. I recently just had to actually…in a big way. My family had Christmas travel plans and we were so excited to spend Christmas in Hilton Head, SC. But, two days before our trip we were checking the weather and it looked really cold and really not fun…especially for a beach locale and for my husband the golfer. So….he called an audible and we changed everything in a matter of hours: our flight and that of our daughter, our hotel, dinner reservations, rental car, tee times, visits with friends…the works. Yes, it freaked me out but lists are my friends so once I had a “change” list; I was on. Truth be told, it was secretly kinda exciting!



The trip will be one that I’ll remember forever…for multiple reasons. I’ll remember how spontaneous we were in changing everything to sunny Scottsdale, AZ and the fun we had the first few days we were there. I’ll remember visiting our daughter’s old stomping grounds from living there after graduating from college and I’ll remember our wonderful casita room. I unfortunately, will also remember getting hit with an upper respiratory infection and finding my health deserted me in the desert. The fun and excitement  didn’t end there. Long story made short: we got stuck in the Southwest Airlines flight cancellation debacle of 2022 and had to drive home. Thankfully we already had a rental car, had friends to stay the night with halfway through the drive, and our daughter’s flight made it back to her home safely. I was never so happy to be in my own bed, albeit sick for five more days. Yep, memorable indeed.



Courtesy Gretchen Rubin

Last year was full of memorable people, places, and things and as we reflect on our experiences over the past 12 months I read about a great little idea. Author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin asked her followers and readers “what would you put in your time capsule for 2022?” and of course it got be thinking. If I’m anything I’m a thinker and a very sentimental one. My time capsule might be pretty big!


Rubin suggested things like photos, travel souvenirs, and maybe a letter to your future self. What you put it all in is of your choosing and creativity. Or, you could even have a time capsule that’s only in your head or perhaps just a list of what you’d put in it. As with anything, have fun with it!



Another idea is to have a year of reflections instead of resolutions. Take time this week and month to reflect on your life: how it’s going, what’s great, what could be better, and whether you’re the person you believe you should or can be. Then, look ahead and hammer out ideas on how to make improvements or to simply be grateful. Ask yourself what you wish you’d have done more or less of, what made you proud last year, what values do you want to uphold or increase, and maybe even what your hopes are for 2023. You don’t have to go crazy or solve all the planet’s problems; just start small but meaningful and see where it goes from there.




That’s the problem. We all try to do too much as a new year arrives. Resolutions like “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I need to exercise every day” might be more attainable if reworded to “I want to eat healthier” and “I hope to exercise 30 minutes at least 3-4 times a week.” Make them achievable. Make them attainable.


And don’t try to fix everything. In fact, sometimes the broken is where healing is found.



The Japanese have a beautiful concept called “Kintsugi.” It’s a form of ceramics that, when a vase or bowl or cup is broken, artists gather up the pieces and glue them back together using glue mixed with gold dust. In this way, they don’t hide the cracks they actually honor and own them, even accentuate them, knowing cracks are often where the light gets in.


I read about this in Matthew Kelly’s book “Life Is Messy” and found it so powerful. Kelly reminds us that our imperfections are what make us perfectly ourselves and that even when something is broken, it can indeed be beautiful again. It may not be exactly the same as before, but it can still be good. This includes people and it includes you.



In this way, the Japanese don’t pretend the vase was never broken and they don’t pretend they’re not broken. They accept that life is indeed messy and know that when we pretend to be someone other than who we are, our true self hides in fear and shame. We may appear shiny and new on the outside, but on the inside we are cracked and broken.



Kintsugi also teaches us that we can be other’s healers and glue each other back together using the gold dust that is love, connection, empathy, patience, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity, community, and kindness. Believing that something that has been broken can’t be beautiful inhibits us not only of joy, but of hope. Believing brokenness can be put back together is both liberating and healthy and just might be the perfect way to start out the new year. Whatever was broken last year can very well be healed and glued back together this year. Maybe my word this year will be “glue.” Maybe it will be “heal.” And maybe it will just be “pause” again as I work to heal, glue, love, and learn.


Happy 2023 everyone!