Beyond Words

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

Angels Among Us April 22, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:03 am

 

Today many of us are celebrating angels announcing that Jesus was raised from dead and at Christmas we sing “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Angels are thought to blow trumpets and play harps, but do they really? Who are angels and what do we really know about them?

 

Photo credit: Deannart 

We know they are not hard to find…and I don’t mean those “angels” of friends, coworkers, and family members or real angels from heaven. I’m talking the plethora of angel depictions ready to be scooped up by shoppers and collectors the world over. Step into any Hobby Lobby (and thank you for closing on Sundays BTW), Target, or fine art gallery and you’re sure to find angels emblazoned on everything from canvases to coffee mugs, including beautiful ones painted by Franklin, Tennessee artist Deann Hebert. Society is definitely fascinated by these heavenly beings, but why?

 

I can’t answer that question, other than perhaps we are all in search of good and protection, something angels are and provide. The word “angel” comes from the Greek “angelos,” meaning messenger, which so accurately describes who they are: God’s messengers.

 

 

Still, even though they are often drawn and depicted with wings and halos, they are believed to have no physical form so we don’t really know what angels look like regardless of all those paintings and drawings we come across. What we do know is that angels are spiritual beings created by God to do His will. They are God’s messengers and ministers of His mercy and compassion. Immortal beings, angels have appeared to humans as apparitions with a human form. They are not, however, souls of the faithful departed and when we die and get to heaven, we don’t become angels. I guess we don’t truly “earn our wings” after all.

 

Angels can be found throughout the bible, with today’s Easter story being one of more famous accounts of angelic intervention. Others include an angel announcing the Christ child’s birth to the shepherds on Christmas and the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her she will bear the Messiah. If you have a nativity you display at Christmas, it most definitely has an angel up top.

 

 

Gabriel isn’t the only angel known by name, as both Michael and Raphael are mentioned by name in scripture. They are called archangels because of their important roles in God’s plan.  St. Michael, whose name means, “one who is like God” and who has a loyal and ardent following, led an army of angels against the devil and is portrayed holding an armored shield and sword ready to defend us in battle.

 

Without going into too much biblical detail, I will also add two other often somewhat well-known angels part of the nine choirs or types of angels identified in the Bible: the seraphim and the cherubim. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, the cherubim guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden, while angels protected Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah, and an angel promised Moses the protection of the people on their way to the Promised Land. Psalm 91:11 is a favorite of mine in that it says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” I paraphrase and refer to this scripture regularly, especially when someone I love is travelling as I ask God to “put your angels around her/him/them” and get whoever it is safely to their destination. I just did this today when my daughter left to return home after visiting for Easter.

 

There are also angels in Revelation and in Matthew 24:31-35, it is written that “He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

 

 

In the meantime, each and every one of us has a Guardian Angel assigned to just us. The photo above is one seen in millions of homes and its accompanying prayer was one of the very first ones I ever learned. Our Guardian Angels are God’s ambassadors to help us avoid sin and evil, keep us in a state of grace, and get us to heaven. From the very beginning of your existence, your Guardian Angel has been concerned about you and working for you and upon death, the angel will present your soul and plead your case. If your ask your Guardian Angel for help, he or she will help you. (That’s another thing, angels are often thought to be female, but that’s not the case.) Think of them as a friend who you can’t really see but if you listen with your heart, you just might hear wise words of wisdom and direction.

 

Too deep and too much to handle? Pray about it and ask your Guardian Angel for help!

 

 

Trust me, I’d always heard about Guardian Angels but never really looked into the subject until I did a bible study on them. I was amazed to learn that everyone has their own personal Guardian Angel and that there are Guardian Angels for all kinds of occupations, places, and ages. What an awesome thing, right? I just love the idea that an angel is there to defend me, inspire me, protect me, warn me, hear me, and console me.  I also love that my angel prays with me and for me and is pretty much my personal rep to God. And I don’t need an app for that or have to press 1 for help.

 

In turn though, I have responsibilities and duties toward my angel. I must always remember I am in the presence of my Guardian Angel and act accordingly, both in thoughts and actions. I fail at this daily, but again, my angel is there to hear me and continue working overtime to guide me. I love the suggestion of every morning upon waking up, greeting my angel, and asking for continued prayer and protection. At bedtime, it’s time to thank my Guardian Angel for another day of shelter and safeguarding.

 

There are other ways to honor your Guardian Angel, including on Tuesdays, which are dedicated to Holy Angels; as well as October 2, the Feast Day of Guardian Angels; and September 29, the Feast of the Archangels. How ‘bout every Tuesday you take the time to honor your Guardian Angel and ask for specific guidance?

 

 

All four gospels write that the angels announcing Jesus’ resurrection were clothed in white or dazzling garments, sometimes “white as snow” dress and brilliant robes. This is probably how many of you picture angels, more so than any chubby cherub or harp-playing flying being. Still, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that Jesus rose from the dead. How do we know? A little angel told us.

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying with Fire April 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:27 am

 

It has hosted kings and presidents the world over and survived numerous battles and invasions, but yesterday Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral could not survive a devastating fire. Although the main interior of the medieval Catholic Church is in relatively good shape considering the scope of the fire, its main roof and famous spire both collapsed as millions watched on TV and on the streets of Paris. The City of Love showed its love for its beloved cathedral and it was all so heart wrenching to watch both historically and personally.

 

 

I love Paris and just last year my daughter and I visited Notre Dame and I’d previously done so with my husband. Notre Dame was his favorite Paris site and he still uses the keychain he got there. As for my daughter, upon entering the majestic cathedral she was quickly told her uncovered shoulders were not allowed, prompting her to begrudgingly put on the packable and portable rain jacket I had in my purse. Frown and all, she marveled at the architecture and stained glass windows, and afterward she and I grabbed an outside table at Le Notre Dame bar and restaurant that sits directly across from the church. What fabulous memories of one fabulous landmark.

 

 

But enough about me. Let’s talk the grande dame herself.

 

 

If there can by any silver lining in yesterday’s devastating news, it is that because the structure was undergoing a renovation, many of the statues and pieces of art had been removed and last I heard the main structure and rectangular bell towers were saved. As for relics and works of art housed inside Notre Dame, it was with great relief to learn that first responders and their chaplain priest formed a human chain inside the burning building to save one of the world’s most priceless relics: Jesus Christ’s Crown of Thorns. Can you even imagine? I’m still in awe and in shock. And it doesn’t end there, housed with the Crown in the cathedral’s treasury were also a fragment of the cross Jesus was crucified on, one of the Holy Nails used to crucify Him, and the 13th century tunic of St. Louis.  It is all a miracle to say the least and what better week to witness miracles of this scale then Holy Week: Christianity’s holiest of weeks.

 

And this may be my favorite photo taken yesterday. Amidst all the rubble and devastation stands the gold altar cross beaming brightly above the almost untouched pieta:

 

 

As travel guru Rick Steves said, it’s hard to imagine the faith of those who built Notre Dame, all with hopes that their great-great-great-great- great- grandchildren may someday attend the dedication mass. They put so much time and labor into the structure; a structure they knew they’d never see finished. That is faith. A faith that in many ways sadly no longer exists today. Magnificently prophetic? Perhaps.

 

Notre Dame itself sits magnificently on the Ile de la Cite, the island on the River Seine that is the geographical heart of Paris and in the hearts of many Parisian. It’s actually where the medieval city was founded and all road distances in France are calculated from the 0 km point of the square facing Notre Dame’s western side…the very side my daughter and I faced as we enjoyed our rose and cheese plate after our tour.

 

The name “Notre Dame” means “Our Lady” in French and is a reference to Mary the mother of Jesus. The Cathedral is a symbol of Paris, Catholicism, and Christianity worldwide. It is also the city’s most visited monument, welcoming some 13 million people a year.  It ranks in the Top 10 of world destinations and Top 5 of European destinations and is even more popular than Paris’ other landmark: The Eiffel Tower.

 

 

Ironically, when the church was built it was considered a “poor people’s book” as it was covered in sculpture and details illustrating biblical stories because the majority of its parishioners were illiterate. Centuries later, both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, marvel at its beauty. Yes, it’s a Catholic church first and foremost, but it’s also an architectural wonder and world treasure.

 

The Cathedral of Notre Dame took more than 200 years to build and it is said that craftsman no longer exist who could replicate what the original creators built. Its foundation stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III and the cathedral was completed in the 13th century. The building consisted of 52 acres of timber and was nicknamed “The Forest,” a fact that made it distinctive but may have also made it combustible, allowing the fire spread so quickly.

 

One of Europe’s most notable monuments, Notre Dame is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and in addition to the timber used to build it, it includes other innovative and distinctive features.

 

The use of the rib vault and flying buttresses are still considered brilliantly before their time in that by using them, the roof’s entire weight was pressed outward and onto the walls, allowing them to be higher and stronger. They also added a stunning exterior to the already striking building.

 

And those famous  gargoyles and other menancing creatures? They too had a practical purpose. Added to the structure in around 1240, they were actually rain spouts, designed to divide torrents of water that poured from the roof during rain storms. Because all aspects of building Notre Dame were labors of love however, they were also designed to be decorative and architecturally interesting.

 

During World War II, it was rumored German soldiers were going to destroy much of the church and its beautiful stained glass windows, which were removed and then reinstalled after the war. During the liberation of Paris in 1944, the cathedral suffered damage but was soon used to celebrate the liberation of Paris from the Germans in a Catholic mass attended by General Charles De Gaulle and other dignitaries.

 

Prior to that and in the 1790s, Notre Dame suffered ruin during the French Revolution and much of its religious imagery was destroyed including large statues on the façade. The only statue that remained intact was that of our Lady, the Virgin Mary. It was at this time that the cathedral became a warehouse of war goods and food and not until Napoleon Bonaparte made Notre Dame a church again did Notre Dame again celebrate mass.  Fittingly, the 800-year-old treasure was the site of Napoleon’s crowning in 1804.

 

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” Victor Hugo

 

In 1831, the gothic masterpiece was forever immortalized with the publication of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and popularity began to soar. It’s never looked back.

 

 

Notre Dame is undeniably one of the world’s most recognized structures and was home to priceless art and historic relics and artifacts – in addition to the Crown of Thorns – and as Bishop Robert Barron said, it is also one of the most spiritually charged places in the world. It’s where France’s beloved Joan of Arc was beatified by Pope Pius X in 1909 and her statue inside is adored by many.

 

 

Photo credit: Michelle Campbell Davila

Then there are the windows; those fabulous stained glass windows of which The Rose Windows are the most famous. One of them is said to be the world’s largest glass window. The trio of ginormous and glorious round windows over the cathedral’s three main portals were salvaged, but apparently others were greatly damaged. If you’ve ever walked inside Notre Dame and gazed up at the windows, you know what a colossal loss this is.

 

 

That spire that so tragically collapsed yesterday? The original one was constructed in the 13th century but was battered and weakened by wear and tear of the weather and was removed in 1786. It was recreated in the 19th century and weighed 750 tons. In another twist of fate…or faith…the spire was surrounded by copper statues of Twelve Apostles, which were removed for the current restoration just days before yesterday’s fire.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Karen Sonleitner

Also famous are the basilica’s bells and bell towers, which when completed, were Paris’ tallest structures until the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889.The cathedral has a total of 10 bells, including the main bell called Emmanuel, which weighs in at 13 tons. It rang for every 9/11 victim in 2001 and marks significant moments in French history, including the coronation of kings, Papal visits, heads of state funerals, and Catholic occasions like Christmas and Easter.

 

Equally impressive is the church’s 17th century grand organ, considered one of the world’s most famous musical instruments. The organ boasts 115 stops and more than 8,000 pipes. As I write this, there is no word as to the condition of this irreplaceable and historic instrument.

 

Until yesterday’s tragic fire, Notre Dame was still in use by the Catholic Church for Sunday mass as was the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.  While the building itself is owned by the state, the Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary and has exclusive rights to use it for religious purposes.

 

Plans are already in place to rebuild Notre Dame but where do you even begin? And how? It’s not like you send out bids to contractors to refurbish oh, just Notre Dame. But French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to see Notre Dame rebuilt within five years and nearly $700 million has been pledged by people and corporations across France and even the world. The president of The University of Notre Dame said the school would give $100,000 toward the renovation.

 

Paris officials were expecting more than 100,000 people to walk through Notre Dame’s doors Easter Sunday, many of whom will now pay their respects outside like the thousands did yesterday. Young and old showed up with rosaries, singing hymns, and praying as one. That’s how important Notre Dame is to Paris, but why does it always take a tragic event like this to bring people together in faith and hope?

 

It is said that during the Middle Ages, when a fire struck, Christians took it as a sign to renew their faith and rebuild their church. Maybe this is a sign that we need to, yes, rebuild Notre Dame, but also our faith as a whole.

 

I’m sure I’m not the only one remembering a visit to Notre Dame and being in total awe of all its history and glory. I can’t even imagine what the people of Paris and all of France are feeling but many are comparing it to their very own 9/11. Yesterday’s tragedy at of one of the world’s most sacred places perhaps can best be summed up by Camille from Normandy who watched as flames blazed through the frame of one of the cathedral’s smaller stained glass windows and told “The Guardian,” “There’s a feeling of total sadness and also anger. It’s our heritage. Whether you’re Christian or not, part of our history is going up in smoke.”

 

We’re with you Paris. Today, we are all Parisians.

 

As I wrote this blog, I was struck by the photos used in it as well as these I leave you with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Wears the Pants…and the Leggings April 7, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:54 pm

It’s a rainy somewhat miserable day today, which was the case yesterday too. I gotta admit though, I love the rain. It’s often the only “weather” we get where I live, so a couple of rainy days really don’t bother me. I find them the perfect time to take a hot bath, read a good book, and hop into some cozy yoga pants. Baths and books have been around forever, but what’s up with yoga pants? They can be seen all over and often on women who have never stepped foot in a yoga class. I personally love yoga but even I find it a bit baffling that fashion’s “athleisure” (i.e.: “athletic” meets “leisure”) trend has taken over closets everywhere and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

 

And I’m okay with that.

 

 

Basically this fashion craze consists of clothing traditionally reserved for gyms and yoga studios now being worn in workplaces, schools, and just about anywhere. Attention Kmart shoppers: gym clothes have left the gym. And maybe most importantly is that, yes, they can still be found in Kmart and other discount retailers, but also in department stores and luxury shops. Although originally designed as clothing meant to look athletic but with really no technical athletic function, athleisure soon became more than that and continues to be whatever it wants to be.

 

“Sweats,” as the term used to be, were once reserved for gyms and homes. But, as much as you may have loved your draw-string, elastic-ankle sweatpants, you would never wear them out on a daily basis. But with a societal and generational increased interest in all things health and fitness came improved activewear fabrics and textiles, which made them not only more comfortable to wear out and about, but let’s be honest, they give the appearance that you are an “active” person whether you are or not. Add a plethora of styles and colors and you have yourself fashion.

 

 

 

Previously though, you’d never go shopping in them much less to a restaurant or work. Times have changed though and we are officially a nation of yoga pants wearers. Just look around. You’ll see women everywhere wearing not only traditional yoga pants (usually slightly flared at the bottom with a wide waistband) but leggings, cropped leggings, and the stripes down the side track pants. Everywhere. And as if they were regular ole’ pants.

 

In a time when “breaking barriers” is trending and buzzing, you could say activewear is leading the (run)way in that it’s truly breaking fashion barriers in offices and restaurants coast-to-coast. I love the style because you can dress it up or dress it down. Put on pair of sneakers and you have a casual but stylish look. Add some heels and a fashionable top or jacket and voila, girl’s night out here I come!

 

But, how did we get here?

 

 

So big is the athleisure market that U.S. imports of women’s elastic knit pants (yes, that’s really what they are ladies regardless of any logos or pricetags), surpassed those of jeans for the first time ever according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau figures. It’s officially fashion’s “new casual” and today you can find more than 11,000 versions of activewear options that Americans spend nearly $50 billion on a year. The trend is not just reserved for pants and leggings though. Step into any athleisure store or department and you’ll find everything from athletic tops to sports bras. Shorts are also still in the mix and those “messy buns” you see women sporting? Yep, athleisurely hair.

 

Blame it on improved fitness? Blame it on fashion laziness? Some say blame it on Lulu.

 

 

Lulu, as in retailer Lululemon, sold its first pair of yoga pants back in 1998 after Canadian Chip Wilson attended a yoga class for his aching back and not only loved the class, but the pants his yoga instructor was wearing. A lightbulb went off in the retail entrepreneur’s head and Lululemon was born. The pants that make your backside look good have never looked back.

 

According to Bloomberg News, Wilson and Lulu’s initial leggings were meant for fitness studios and were a mix of nylon and Lycra. They were stretchy and soft and were just what many yogis were looking for. Lulu trademarked its original “Luon” fabric in 2005 and today boasts an R&D headquarters to explore things like “the science of feel” and to develop fabrics specific to particular activities. The brand had 2018 revenues of $3.2 billion and is unequivocally considered the coolest of the cool in the fitness apparel industry. Its famous “That Girl” logo, as I like to call it, is as coveted as any interlocking Gs or Cs. Personally I find the prices somewhat high and the stores a bit intimidating (I’m more a Target and Athleta girl) but Lulu lovers swear by the products and are considered one of fashion and retail’s most ardent representations of brand loyalty. Lulu lovers love their Lulu.

 

 

The double Gs at Gucci have taken note. Business Insider recently reported that Gucci is suddenly hip and happening with millennials much in part to its embracing of what is also called “streetwear” so often spotted on the supermodels, reality stars, and singers millennials religiously follow and imitate fashion-wise.  It seems this younger segment of the working and spending population is more concerned with uniqueness then luxury and their fashion dependence on athleisure has created a whole new fashion market. Alessandro Michele was brought on by Gucci as creative director and he quickly directed the creation of streetwear emblazoned with the company’s logo. It was a hit and competitors quickly followed suit.

 

But let’s get this straight, yoga has been around for more than 2,500 years and spandex was on the scene long before Studio 54, so what gives? Why now stretchy fabric and why so much of you?

 

 

UNLV Fashion Historian (now there’s a job I’d love to have) Deirdre Clemente told The Atlantic she thinks she has the answer and it’s threefold. First, synthetic fabrics are vastly improved; second, society is much more health and healthy appearance conscious; and third, there is a true relaxation of dress codes going on resulting in a decline of fashion formality. So you have versatile fabrics made into fashionable quality lifestyle apparel that make you look healthy. What’s not to love and makes perfect fashion sense, right?

 

 

Yes and no. One must be careful and cautious about just what athleisure ware to wear. It should go without saying that if you’re a bit on the plus size, leggings may not be the most flattering choice. Opt instead for yoga-style or looser fitting pants and make sure those bums are covered up. Your fitness level should be considered too, as well as your age. You might be on the thinner side, but if you’re not toned maybe steer away from clothing that is extremely tight or sleeveless and keep in mind age matters. What a 23-year-old wears might not be age appropriate for a 53-year-old, regardless of size and shape. And call me old-fashioned, but I think sports bras should be worn solo only when truly working out…in a gym…and if you have the body for one. Okay and maybe if you’re Gigi or Bella.

 

Forecasters say there is no end in sight for this fashion moment, so consider tasteful and comfortable ways you can incorporate it in your wardrobe if you haven’t already. My guess is you have and you’re loving every cozy minute of it. Namaste!

 

 

Irish Eyes Are Smiling March 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:17 pm

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! We are all a wee bit Irish today and I’m guessing you are wearing green as you read this as we all honor the land of leprechauns, step dancing, U2, fabulous golf, Guinness, shamrocks, and St. Patrick. But who was the saint named Patrick and why do we celebrate him in such a big way?

 

What A Saint

Forever tied to Ireland, Patrick wasn’t even born on the Emerald Isle but in Britain. When he was 16, young Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders who took him to Ireland and sold him as a salve. He spent many years there, herding sheep and turning to God in prayer. He escaped when he was 22 and made his way back to England where he spent 12 years in a monastery. Legend has it that he had a dream in which the people of Ireland were calling him back. The dream is said to have been the voice of God encouraging him to spread Christianity across Ireland and convert the pagans. Patrick returned to Ireland and began preaching the gospel, building churches, and converting many. Born of wealth, Patrick lived in poverty and suffered greatly until he died on March 17, 461. He is said to be buried in Down Cathedral in the County of Down in Ireland and ironically, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the day he died, not on his birthday.

 

 

Luck of the Irish

My favorite part of the St. Patrick story is that he used the shamrock as a way to teach the Holy Trinity. The simple green plant grows abundantly in Ireland so he cleverly used it to explain the trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His idea was so convincing that even pagan rulers converted to Christianity. I love this story so much I use it every year with my little buddies in class.

 

The shamrock has three leaves and is considered a clover plant but what is the difference between it and the four-leaf clover? The latter is the result of a mutation in the clover plant that causes it to sprout four leaves instead of the normal three. These four-leaf wonders are very rare and are considered a universal symbol of good luck.

 

 

Patrick loved incorporating other traditional rituals in his lessons for both simplicity and proof. Because fire was sacred to the Irish, Patrick superimposed a sun onto a Christian cross. Today this cross, called a Celtic cross, is one of Christianity’s most popular.

 

 

Another cross, St. Patrick’s Cross of Ireland, also makes up part of the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom. When you look at the flag, you can see it is actually made up of three different crosses:  St. George’s red Cross of England, St. Andrew’s white Cross of Scotland, and St. Patrick’s red one. And to be clear, the UK is considered all of Great Britain – England, Scotland, and Wales – with the addition of Northern Ireland. Ireland is considered its own republic.

 

 

River Dancing in the Streets

Funny thing is, as much as a celebration and party St. Patrick’s Day is today, from 1903-1970 it was considered a religious holiday according to Irish law, which required pubs remain closed for the day. Squeal! The law was reclassified as a national holiday in 1970, paving the way for the opening of drinking establishment doors and green beer. In the Diocese of Ireland however, it is still considered a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning Catholics are obligated to attend mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament. The fact that this year’s holiday is on a Sunday makes it even special and all the more sacred.

 

Stateside, it all started as a political holiday when American Irish immigrants organized themselves and commemorated St. Patrick with annual parades and festivities to demonstrate their political and social might. Ironically, there are more Irish in the U.S. than in Ireland! There are an estimated 34 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry but the population of Ireland is only 4.2 million.

 

 

St. Patrick today, along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures and his prayers can be found among all walks of life. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The Fifth Avenue Neo-Gothic icon ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. St. Patrick isn’t only revered by Catholics though. He is honored with a feast day in the Episcopal Church and is also venerated by the Orthodox Church.

 

 

Parades and festivals will happen in many places today, but perhaps the ones in New York, Boston, and Chicago rank highest. Every year the Chicago River is colored green and green beer and whiskey flow abundantly throughout the city. And it’s WHISKEY, not WHISKY. Irish spell the scotch with an added “e,” while their Scottish neighbors omit the extra vowel. American-made whiskeys also add the “e.”

 

 

Lastly, the color green. It will be everywhere you look today and be ready to get pinched if you’re not wearing it. It’s definitely tied to St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish, but it’s also tied to jealousy. “Green with envy” is a common saying but my lads, it’s nothing to celebrate. On this Sunday and every day, let’s try taking a cue from St. Patrick and be giving not envious. It’s a trait that will make all eyes smile, not just those Irish ones.

 

I leave you with one of my favorite prayers from St. Patrick:

 

 

 

What A Doll March 16, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:48 pm

Somebody had a very special birthday this month and it’s someone who has had multiple impressive jobs, many a fabulous home, and a man who has eyes only for her. Who could it be? None other than Barbie! Yep, the Malibu princess turned 60 on March 9 and doesn’t she look fab for her age?!

 

 

     

During those 60 years Barbie has been everything from best friend to president. She’s been a doctor, an astronaut, a news anchor, a fashion editor, flight attendant, and everything in between. And despite numerous controversies surrounding her hair color, waist size, and skin color, Barbie remains Mattel’s best-selling toy.  A total of more than a billion Barbie dolls have been sold over the years and every year nearly 60 million are bought around the world. A whopping 100 Barbies are said to be sold every minute!  Not bad for a girl whose inspiration came from a risqué German doll named Bild Lilli.

 

 

Truth be told, I love Barbie and all things Barbie. I’ve always wanted a wall in my house filled with big vintage and pop art sketches of the doll but for some reason my husband is not on board. Go figure. And who didn’t love Danish-Norwegian dance-pop group Aqua’s fun and flirty 1997 hit “I’m A Barbie Girl.” You’re probably right now singing “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world, life in plastic, it’s fantastic” after reading the title.

 

 

If I were a gazillionaire living in a dream house with a ton of rooms, I’d dedicate one just to Barbie. I’d have all my old Barbies displayed, along with her Dreamhouse, clothes, and everything vintage. Those hangars! Those little bitty shoes! That white pink stole! And those carrying cases! I still have one exactly like the red one above and if I close my eyes I can picture how it feels and how it smells. These are childhood memories that have indeed lasted a lifetime.

 

 

Growing up a Hispanic brunette, I never cared that Barbie was blonde-haired and blue-eyed. My sisters and I played with her and her Dreamhouse that we still have at my mom’s house and we never, ever felt slighted by her whiteness or thinness. She was just a doll to us and one who gave us countless hours of playful pretend joy. We had Barbie and later added Midge, Ken, and Skipper and I remember how exciting it was when new Barbies had bendable knees and twist-and-turn waists. All these years later, today girls of all colors and shapes can find a Barbie in their own image, which is what Barbie was intended to be all along.

 

 

Created by then Mattel owner Ruth Handler and her husband Elliott, Barbie was inspired by the paper dolls their daughter Barbara played with and designed after Bild Lilli. (I also remember LOVING paper dolls, especially Betsy McCall ones that came each month in my mom’s McCall’s magazine.) The Handlers also invented Hot Wheels and named Barbie and Ken after their children. It’s safe to say that little did they know they had an icon on their hands when Barbie debuted at the New York Toy Fair on March 9, 1959. They probably thought they just had a cute doll with a ponytail, holding sunglasses, and wearing a swimsuit. Instead, what the Handlers handed the world was its most popular and famous doll of all time. Let’s give them a hand for doing so.

 

 

Since that debut, Barbie has undergone many a makeover, had many a career, and many a celebrity has been made into their very own Barbie doll. Some makeovers have been received with fanfare but others have been met with criticism, including and probably by some of those very stars who thought nothing of being a Barbie themselves. But that’ a whole other blog. So, let’s start with her figure. That ubiquitous and unrealistic figure that many say conveys an unrealistic body image to young girls.

 

 

A standard Barbie dolls is 11.5 inches tall, which equates to around 5’9” in real life and weighs around 110 pounds, which most experts and doctors consider underweight for her height. The doll’s “real life” measurements are estimated to be a 36-inch chest, an 18-inch waist, and 33-inch-wide hips. According to the BBC, if you made the original body into a true human size figure, she would have a 21-inch waist and 30-inch hips. Sadly, the average waist of an American woman in 2018 was 39 inches.

 

 

In response, Mattel has altered Barbie’s figure and a new line of body types including tall, petite, and curvy, was introduced. Curvy Barbie gained a great deal of attention and accolades but sadly many young girls still consider her “fat,” even though she would be an equivalent of a size 4 in women’s clothing. That, my friends, is not Barbie’s fault.

 

But that’s just the start of the controversies that have surrounded our Barbie girl.

 

Diversity was also lacking in early day Barbies, but in their defense, Mattel has attempted to create Barbies that appeal to a range of races and cultures and dolls representing all walks of life.

 

“Colored Francie” debuted in 1967 and is sometimes considered the first African-American Barbie, but she was made using the same head molds as those of white Francie so she lacked what many consider traditional women of color characteristics. A year later Christie was introduced and was considered more racially authentic and accurate.

 

In 1980 Mattel began producing Hispanic dolls, including Teresa who is currently one of Barbie’s best friends. In addition, mixed race Asian-American Raquelle was one of the “I Can Be President” dolls while Summer Gordon appeals to all the gingers in the world with her strawberry blonde hair and green eyes.

 

All in all, Barbie now sports at least seven skin tones, 22 eyes colors, and 24 hair styles and colors and the “Barbie Fashionistas” line includes a doll with a prosthetic leg and another in a wheel chair. Last year the “Inspiring Women” line was released featuring the likes of Amelia Earhart and snowboarder Chloe Kim, among others. And just this year, more than 20 “Sheroes” dolls bear the likes of female heroes like activists and gymnasts.

 

Barbie’s rep also took a hit in 1992 when the talking “Teen Talk Barbie” said things like “I love shopping” and “Will we ever have enough clothes?” As if those weren’t cringe-worthy enough, what ultimately broke the Barbie’s back was the now infamous “Math class is tough” phrase. Each doll was programmed to say four of 270 possible phrases and only less than 2 percent of all dolls sold said the dreaded math one. Still loud and vocal criticism led Mattel to eliminate it all together.

 

 

 

Given the full name Barbara Millicent Roberts, Barbie hails from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin and she attended Willows High School. Somehow she made her way to Malibu, California though. Her on-off boyfriend Ken Carson first appeared in 1961 and she had a famous younger sister named Skipper. Her family and friend circles continue to grow and morph and she even got a little friendly with Australian surfer Blaine when she and Ken were on a break. Oh my!

 

Through the years, Barbie’s cars are almost as famous as her wardrobe. She’s owned everything from a requisite pink convertible to more sporty Jeeps. She also holds a pilot’s license and can fly a commercial airplane. Barbie works hard and plays hard, and whether beach babe or boss lady, she lives her life to the fullest. Maybe that’s what we all love about her.

 

Barbie’s ever-evolving and progressive make-overs have also affected where she lives. Enter, the Barbie Dreamhouse. And what a dream it is.

 

 

The first Barbie Dreamhouse was introduced in 1962 and was made out of cardboard. It could be folded up into a portable luggage-like piece and is the one I had as a child. With a true minimalist vibe, the house is reminiscent of TV’s “Mad Men” and all things Rat Pack. Since then, Barbie’s digs have run the gamut and perfectly mimic the decades in which they were created, right down to their plastic.

 

 

The ‘70s saw Barbie move into a brightly decorated, fun, and girlie three-story home complete with an elevator, followed by a more realistic one a few years later that had working doors and windows. From there Barbie became urban-chic as she transitioned to city life as well as a full-blown “magical mansion” that featured a ringing telephone (remember those?!), a working doorbell, and a light-up fireplace. More recently Barbie’s home away from home boasts architectural details only a designer could dream up, including stained glass and bay windows, arches, and balconies. It’s important to also note that Barbie must be working hard as her most recent home has not one but two elevators.

 

 

 

Whatever her pros and cons, Barbie is an undeniable hit that has withstood generations of play and fame. In 2016 she was the subject of an exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris and she is bonafide social media darling. Her Instagram account, @barbiestyle, has 2 million followers and nearly 6 million follow her YouTube animated vlogs. She is the subject of a Netflix series, has starred in close to 40 animated films, and a live-action movie featuring Oscar-nominated Margot Robbie is currently in production. I can’t wait for that one! Mattel is rightly proud of their girl and is commemorating her anniversary with a pop-up art installation in New York City. Think of the pink! Think of the lines! Think of the history.

 

 

Maybe deep down we are all Barbie girls, shouldn’t take her so seriously, and instead just have fun with the whole idea of a girl who can do anything and who dreams big. As they say, if you don’t have a dream, there’s no way to make one come true.

 

Happy Birthday Barbie!

 

 

 

 

Travel with Friends…For the Health of It March 12, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:56 pm

 

Looking for a way to improve your health and well-being? Phone a friend! Take a trip! Better yet, do both at once.

 

Just last week I returned from my annual girls’ trip with four of my college buddies. Every February we meet somewhere…all five of us live in different cities and some states…to relax, catch up, and enjoy being with each other and in a beautiful place. We take turns choosing the destination; no one votes, no one does a thing but show up unless you are the gal picking that year’s locale. For 16 straight years we have done this. We laugh, we cry, we swear, we sightsee, we shop, we spa, we eat, we drink. And for the first time this year, we had a bit of drama but as true friends do, we get through it and move on. Most of all we value each other and our time together, and apparently we are on to something.

 

In today’s society of strangers and random “likes,” it was comforting to recently read that taking a trip with your girlfriends is not just good for your soul but good for your health too. Yay! Yippee!

 

But, you say, we already knew that, right? Yes perhaps, but now it’s scientifically proven and research based. It’s also a win-win: both travel and friendships are good for you. I’m in!

 

 

Friends with Benefits

Here’s the deal: researchers have found that hanging out with gal pals can actually increase the production of oxytocin, the “feel good cuddle” hormone that our bodies naturally make when we’re happy. Since it raises our levels of joy, it can also make us more generous, more trusting, a bit friendlier, and a host of other traits we look for in…friends! And if this “feel good” evidence isn’t enough to convince you science nerds, hold your lab coats and read on.

 

 

News flash: friendship can extend your life expectancy, lower the chances of heart disease, and help you tolerate pain. And, none other than brainiacs at Harvard have discovered that people who don’t have strong friendships may be more depressed, suffer earlier cognitive decline, and may even die at younger ages then those surrounded by loyal friends. So important are friendships that a lack of strong social ties increases the risk of premature death by 50 percent and how lonely one feels increases the risk of dementia. Call those friends and call them now!

 

Better yet, take a trip with them, as the benefits of friendships are very, very similar to the benefits of travel. Combine the two and voila, you’ve got pure awesomeness.

 

 

The Friendly Skies

So we’ve learned having trusted and loyal friends reduces stress, has positive physiological changes in the brain, reduces the threat of heart disease, and decreases the risk of depression but guess what? Travel does all those things too. Well, as long as you can handle the growing stress of flying these days.

 

Now we’re learning that traveling with friends just ups the ante and may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

Getting away from the daily stressors in your life, especially if you can surround yourself with trusted friends while on your escape, has a way of repairing, rebooting, and rejuvenating both your mind and your body. You leave behind your schedule, your laundry, and everything else that keeps you busy and rushed.

 

 

We already discussed the benefits having heartfelt friends has on your heart, and when you travel you tend to walk more than you might at home, which is also heart healthy. Both friendship and travel relieve stress and can reduce the risk of depression. In fact, the Wisconsin Medical Journal reported that women who travel may be less likely to develop depression.

 

People who travel for pleasure also tend to have a “life is good and I am blessed” attitude and don’t you feel that very same way after spending either a week or an afternoon with good friends? It’s a level of satisfaction that no website or post can give you.

 

 

And don’t give me the “I feel guilty traveling without my family” reason. Unless you are a single mom or nursing a baby, and even they can still maybe get away for even one night,  that reason sounds more like an excuse. Your family will be just fine while you’re away and you’ll return to them a happier and recharged member. Our daughter still to this day reminds me of the time I left her with strep throat to leave on that year’s annual girls’ trip. She’s 25-years-old now but loves to remind me about it. Truth be told, I had taken her to the doctor, gotten her antibiotics, knew strep traditionally goes away quickly, and she was in good hands with her dad.

 

Phone a Friend

But don’t fret if a “friendcation” simply isn’t in the cards any time soon. A recent study showed that simply going out with the girls is equally beneficial. Happy hour? Check. Painting class? Yep. Round of golf? Tee it up!

 

The study, conducted by researchers at Oxford University, found that women’s overall health and happiness levels increase and improve the more they get together with friends. These quick snippets of love and laughter have a proven way of helping a woman heal faster from injury or illness and decrease stress and anxiety. The positive impact on both a woman’s mental and physical health proves that laughter is the best medicine.

 

 

But as women, we know that carving out time for a simple cup of coffee much less a five day vacay is difficult. We make time for family, work, exercise, and other commitments, but when it comes to girl time we tend to lollygag. In today’s mobile and moving world, it’s also common for friends to move away. I’ve lived in the same metro area for 33 years and have friends in different places from different phases of my life. They know everything about me, the good and the bad, and we’ve all been through so much. I love them but do I see them as often as I’d like? No, but each group does make a point of getting together and those are moments I treasure.

 

 

Maintaining close friendships may prove harder and harder as we age. Our kids grow up, jobs change, and energy levels diminish, but it’s important to point out that a Michigan State University psychologist found that in older adults, friendships are a stronger predictor of health and happiness than family member relationships. All I can say is that my girls’ trip consists of five women who don’t live near each other, have busy lives, and rarely see each other save for our annual trip, but we make it a point to do so every February. Yes, we know we are beyond lucky but we are also beyond dedicated.

 

 

So, whether booking a trip or making a reservation, what’s the key to building and maintaining a healthy group of gal pals? Most experts agree the smaller the group, the better.  A large group will never be intimate and a small, close-knit one has a much higher level of commitment, the odds of scheduling conflicts decrease, everyone will always feel they are being heard and are validated and nurtured, trust will soar, bonds will grow, and reservations are much easier to make!

 

 

So maybe it’s time we stopped focusing on filling our lives with more things and more busyness, and instead call up that friend or group of friends you love and miss. Grab a coffee, see a movie, have a glass of wine. Maybe even take a trip. Whatever you decide or can do, it’s time to invest in friendships and not things. Your heart, body, and mind will thank you for it.

 

A Pink Red Carpet February 25, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:17 pm

I watched very little of last night’s Oscars telecast (I had to see Gaga and Bradley’s duet) but no one loves fashion more than me and if anything, the Academy Awards are also fashion awards in a sense. You could say the Red Carpet turned pink and playfully feminine this year, as pretty in pink and over-sized bows were the dominant trends.  Sooooo…after Googling and surfing, here are my pics for best and worst.

 

 

Helen Mirren in Schiaparelli Couture

I’ll start with my choice for “Best Dressed,” and it’s none other than the always classy and stunning Helen Mirren in this tiered tulle jewel. The color and cut of the dress were perfection and I really liked her hair, which is a style almost anyone can pull off.

 

After Dame Mirren and in no particular order are other looks I loved:

 

 

Allison Janey in Pamela Roland

Ms. Janey has become a reliable red carpet sensation, as look after look are tasteful and elegant.  I don’t know if this tuxedo-style dress was velvet, but I loved it. The satin lapels and cummerbund-style wrap around her waist were so chic yet traditional, and the necklace was perfect.

 

 

Angela Bassett is Reem Acra

Bassett is another one you can almost always count on on any red carpet and last night’s hot pink gown was no exception. I love the over-sized bow but was a bit disappointed in the very obvious “ride over” wrinkles.

 

 

Laura Marano in Celia Kritharioti

Another fabulous bow belonged to this singer-actress who made everyone take notice at her first ever Oscars. The canary yellow atop a muted pink made for a playful,  fresh, and fun choice. Not sure about that purse though. Still, I can’t wait to see what she does at her next red carpet!

 

 

Ashley Graham is Zac Posen

Damn girl, work those curves! I normally feel like Graham tries too hard, but this time she nailed it. Loved the pulled back hair and simple diamond choker.  I’ve never seen her look better.

 

 

Gemma Chan in Valentino Couture

Straight off the Spring 2019 runway, this amazing pink pleated…and is that smocking?!…epic dress is how you make an entrance and own the carpet. Best of all, the “Crazy Rich Asians” pulled it off oh-so elegantly, much like her movie character would have.

 

 

Kiki Layne in Atelier Versace

Ms. Layne stayed away from hot pink and instead chose this sleek bubblegum straight-line gem. Loved the cutout on top and the big ole’ bow in the back. Flawless perfection.

 

 

Olivia Coleman in Prada

Perhaps the biggest surprise winner last night, Coleman took home the “Best Actress” trophy in this fabulous forest green mock-neck dress with sheer sleeves and a fabulous wrap/train. She was truly a winner last night!

 

 

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Melissa McCarthy in Brandon Maxwell

I actually think McCarthy’s pants pick was not only striking but flattering. I loved the black-and-white color scheme and that cape affect. Sometimes, as in this case, it’s worth taking a fashion risk. Well played Ms. McCarthy.

 

 

Tina Fey in Custom Vera Wang

Fey is rarely a show-stopper but the funny girl is no fashion laughing matter. She always brings sleek sophistication and style to the red carpet and her cobalt blue sleeveless sheath continued the trend.

 

 

Julia Roberts in Elie Saab

Although she didn’t walk the red carpet, the Oscar winner is sure to make many a “best dressed” list in this one-shoulder, appropriate amount of leg-baring hot pink gown. Roberts has killer legs but rather then wear a “slit up to there” dress, she kept it classy. Roberts always looks fabulous but also like she just threw something on. Her effortless style and decorum are qualities many a star should take note of.

 

Selma Blair in Ralph & Russo

Ms. Blair didn’t walk the Red Carpet either, but the fact that she walked with a cane and showed up at after parties in this bandage-top multi-striped dress with a sheer cape turned heads. The dress alone was breathtaking but the cane, necessary after her recent diagnosis with MS, was the night’s bravest and best accessory.

 

 

From there, my “oh so close” list includes:

 

Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen

Although I did like her choice of dramatic black and the leather opera gloves, I just didn’t love it and I’m not sure why. But, can we talk about her necklace? The 128-carat Tiffany center diamond hadn’t been worn since Audrey Hepburn did so in photos for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” It, along with the gloves, brought Old School Hollywood Glam to the carpet, and I do like that.

 

 

Kasey Musgraves in Giambattista Vali Couture

The singer rarely shows up in something expected or conventional, and I love that about her. Although her layered pink ball gown with accordion pleats and a tutu-style neck was a bit much, something about it I liked. It was whimsical and that sweet little bow belt made me smile.

 

 

Glenn Close in Carolina Herrera

I’ve always said if I could have any one designer create clothing for me, it would be Carolina Herrera, who designed Close’s 42-pound gold shimmery double-breasted dress with a dramatic train. I feel like I should love it because I love glitter, love Herrera, and normally love capes and trains but I can’t help but feel the whole look would have been so much more tasteful yet just as memorable without the cape and train.

 

 

 

As for couples, no one could compete with:

 

Irina Shayk and Bradley Cooper. He’s so adorable and talented; she’s stunning and has a great simple haircut. Together they are so dang cute.

 

 

Jordan Peele and Chelsea Peretti.  Not very familiar with either of them but I LOVED her dress and how happy does he look?

 

 

Kelly Rippa and Mark Consuelos. Find you someone who looks at you like Consuelos is looking at Ripa.

 

 

Dana Carey and Paula Zwagerman. Dana Carvey on a “best dressed” list? Now that’s funny. Not so much though and it’s amazing what a traditional tux can do to a man. As for Zwagerman, I love the maxi coat look…love, love, love…but can someone please do something about her hair?

 

 

Mike Myers and Kelly Tisdale. Another Wayne’s World funny man winner. Again, standard tux and how pretty did Tisdale look in that sheer-necked floral over-lay dress? Really, really pretty.

 

 

Jennifer Lopez and Alexander Rodriquez. More than anything, I put them on this list because they are hotness defined as a couple, because of ARod alone, and because she just seems to get prettier and prettier by the minute. That being said, I was not a fan of her dress. Yes she looks fab-u-lous, but haven’t we seen this look over and over again on her and so many others, including Molly Sims and Brie Larson just last night? And her hair; don’t even get me started.

 

 

Other then the truly outlandish (really Pharrell?), when it comes to “worst dressed,” here are three of mine:.

 

Charlize Theron in Dior

Please don’t hate me because she’s beautiful. And, she normally sets the bar on most carpets. But, she’s on this list because I was a bit disappointed in the Wedgewood blue high neck dress and I’m not a fan of her brunette bob. Yes, the back was dramatic and the jewels were stunning, but it just all left me kinda meh.

 

 

Sarah Paulson in Brandon Maxwell

Many are putting her on their “best dressed” lists today, but I can’t. I just can’t.  I liked the pockets but otherwise found this puffy hot pink cut-out dress…or mess…just too much and can we say something about her hair? You make millions of dollars a year, had an entire glam team get you ready all day, and you come to the red carpet with bad hair and bad roots? No, just no.

 

 

Maya Rudolph

I tried ad naseum until I got nauseous trying to find the designer of this caped disaster but to no avail. Maybe no one wants to claim it. Maya: my grandma called and wants her wallpaper back.

 

 

And that’s a wrap. Is there anyone I missed or anything you disagree with?