Beyond Words

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

I’ve Been Tested September 19, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:26 pm

As I’ve blogged previously, I learned that our daughter is a major extrovert when she stayed with us working from our home for two-and-a-half months earlier this spring. I always knew she was a talker and outgoing, but I never realized just how much. I’ve also learned that all this staying at home is actually pretty easy for me and quite cathartic. I’m a nester and just this week took a test that confirmed I’m also a major introvert.

 

The test, conducted by bestselling author/life coach/podcaster/Masters in Counseling Holley Gerth, showed that out of a total score of 100 percent, I’m 85 percent introvert. Yikes! Somewhat surprising is that introverts make up half of the population and fellow introverts include Joanna Gaines, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Jerry Seinfeld, C.S. Lewis, Max Lucado, and Michael Jordan. I’m impressed!

 

 

Holley Gerth

Gerth’s posts and her eye-opening “The Powerful Purpose of Introverts” book also emphasizes that even though introverts have strengths, gifts, and skill the world needs…and maybe now more than ever…our strengths aren’t always heard over all the chatter out there. We may quietly go about our way, but we do make a difference.

 

 

Gerth stresses that being an introvert isn’t a struggle, it’s a superpower and many of the traits of an introvert have my name all over them. I relish time on my own but I also love people…just not all of them and not in big doses. I’m a good listener…but will speak my mind if pushed. I think (sometimes overthink) before I speak and my active mind is always thinking (again, sometimes overthinking). I’m very observant and notice things others might miss. I listen and learn and I pay attention. I like to focus on my work or activities and I value quality over quantity in relationships. On the downside, we introverts can get stuck comparing ourselves to others (we’re kinda perfectionists) and we allow fear to sometimes get the best of us.

 

If you’re wondering if you’re an introvert or extrovert, want a measurement of how much you are of one or the other (none of us BTW, are 100 percent either or), check out Gerth’s test and book at holleygerth.com.

 

Of course taking that test made me think (and overthink?!) about other personality tests out there and ones I’ve taken.  Two of the most popular ones are “The Five Love Languages” and The Myers-Briggs Indicator. I’ve taken both, as well as “The Four Tendencies,” a “Tibetan Personality Assessment,” and just today I saw a post on “What’s Your Play Personality” and took it. Needless to say, I love this stuff!

 

 

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Take a look at the above photo. Look closely. What you may have perceived as the runners is actually the runners’ shadows. How we see things and our perception is what’s behind perhaps one of the most prevalent and popular test is the Myers-Briggs. Many moons ago my coworkers and I took the test as a tool to reveal and enhance ways to work more efficiently and effectively as a team. Developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers, the indicator is taken annually by millions since its publication in 1962. It’s proven an effective method to discover personality types but doesn’t measure traits, abilities, or character but rather the different ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgement. Perception is described as all the ways we become aware of things, people, happenings, and ideas while Judgement involves the ways we come to conclusions about what has been perceived. Briggs and her mother Katharine Briggs identified 16 distinctive personality types:

 

Favorite world. Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or inner world? This is called Extraversion or Introversion (I).

 

Information. Do you prefer to focus on basic information or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning. This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition.

 

Decisions. When making decision, do you first look at logic and consistency or at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

 

Structure. In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

 

My results showed me as an ISFJ, short for Introversion/Sensing/Feeling/Judging. Personality traits of ISFJers and pretty aligned with my personality include factual, sympathetic, detailed, dependable, organized, thorough, conscientious, conservative, realistic, caring, practical, stable, and helpful. Yep, pretty much me to a T. Capital T.

 

It’s important to note that all types are equal; there is no “best” and the goal of knowing personality types is to understand and appreciate differences between people, to facilitate information about teams of people, and to foster communication and cooperation. Sounds like it has 2020 written all over it.

 

Have you taken Myers-Briggs? What were your results?

 

 

The Five Love Languages

Another popular “test” is this one, which was developed around the fact that everyone gives and receives love differently. In his bestselling book of the same name, Dr. Gary Chapman offers tools based on the idea that relationships grow better when we understand each other better. When we’re not on the same page, he writes, keeping love alive can be intimidating and often impossible. This is the case not only for spouses or those dating, but siblings, friends, and coworkers.

 

My Primary Love Language is Words of Affirmation. To me, actions don’t always speak louder than words. Unsolicited compliments mean the world to me as is hearing the reasons behind kind and loving words. Insults can leave me shattered and are not easily forgotten. I can hear my daughter saying “Mom, don’t get so butt hurt” in the back of my mind as I write this. I get butt hurt. I do. If you wanna make me happy though, offer kind, encouraging, and positive words, which are truly life-giving to me. If that’s not possible, give me gifts, as Receiving Gifts was my second most important Love Language followed in order by Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

 

What about you? What is your Love Language?

 

 

The Four Tendencies

This test was developed by author and speaker Gretchen Rubin and asks the simple question “How do I respond to expectations?” The premise being we gain insight into ourselves and when we know how other people respond to expectations, we understand them far more effectively. Again, this is beneficial in so many realms of life: families, schools, coworkers, teammates, and the like.

 

The test’s framework reveals Four Tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel and works around the fact that we all face two kinds of expectations: outer and inner and how we respond to them determines our Tendency. Outer expectations may be deadlines while inner are things like keeping New Year’s resolutions. Being aware of our Tendency can help us achieve our goals, make better decisions, keep promises and commitments, reduce stress, and engage more deeply in others. Knowing how others respond through their Tendencies may reduce conflict, increase productivity, and increase significant and lasting change.

 

My Tendency is Upholder. Shocker, right? Upholders generally want to know what should be done, do what others expect of them, and do what they expect of themselves. In other words, they meet both outer and inner expectations. They wake up thinking “What’s on the schedule and to do list today?” So. Very. Me.

 

An Upholder hates letting both others and themselves down. Others can rely on them and they often rely on themselves. They know what’s expected, avoid making mistakes, and hates letting people down. They  want to understand rules, have a strong instinct for self-preservation, embrace habits and form them fairly easily as they find habits gratifying, are self-directed, have little trouble meeting commitments, keep resolutions, and meet deadlines, which came in especially handy back in my TV news days. Two huge deadlines every day that you did not want to miss!

 

On the downside, Upholders may struggle in situations where expectations aren’t clear, feel uneasy when they’re not obeying the rules, or when they’re asked to change plans at the last minute. Others may find them rigid and relentless. Hashtag raising my guilty hand.

 

The other three Tendencies are:

Questioners, who want justifications and do what they think is best and according to their judgement but if it doesn’t make sense, they won’t do it. They resist outer expectations but meet inner expectations.

 

Obligers is the biggest group, with just over 40 percent falling into this category. They need accountability and do what they have to do. They don’t want to let others down but they may tend to let themselves down. The meet outer expectations but resist inner expectations.

 

Rebels want freedom to do something their way and in their own way. If you try to make them do something, they can tend to be less likely to do even if they try to make themselves do so. They resist both outer and inner expectations.

 

When we understand ourselves and how our Tendency shapes our world perspective, we can adapt our circumstances to suit our lives and when we can see the perspectives and Tendency of others, we can engage with them more effectively and their actions make sense.

 

To take this short, free quiz; purchase the book; or enroll in a video course, visit gretchenrubin.com.

 

 

 

What’s Your Play Personality?

This test is all about unleashing the inner child in us. It reminds us of when we were kids and would spend hours playing carefree and without distractions. Research shows that active plays is essential to a child’s development in that it improves important life skills like emotional intelligence and problem-solving prowess and we continue to learn that playtime is also beneficial for adults as it keeps us stronger, healthier, reduces stress, deepens our relationships, and expands our creativity.

 

Sadly, we grow up and forget how to play. Not workout. Not compete. Truly play. So, take a minute to remind yourself of what inspired you to play when we were little and what makes you most happy when we play, then take this fun quiz to access your play personality. It’s all based on Dr. Stuart Brown’s book “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” and defines eight Play Personalities:  Joker, Kinesthete, Explorer, Competitor, Director, Collector, Artist, and Storyteller.

 

No surprise here that I tested for The Storyteller. Most people have multiple Play Personalities and I feel I have a bit of Director in me as well as I like to plan and organize events, as its description details, but Storyteller is what I tested at. Storytellers play through stories and imagination and love to create stories, novels, movies, plays, and performances. I’m not much of a performer as I don’t like attention, but I do enjoy reading novels, writing, or watching movies, which are also part of a Storyteller’s Play Personality. Additional traits include getting lost in a story and feeling the thoughts and emotions of characters in a story and gravitating toward book clubs and writer’s groups. Hmmmm…yes, that’s me but in reading it I’m hearing “you need to get out more Carla!”

 

Check out this fun quiz at reimagineplay.com

 

 

Tibetan Personality Assessment

Another fun test I want to quickly touch upon is the Tibetan Personality Assessment. It’s a simple four question quiz said to reveal a lot about how you see your life on an innermost level and your attitude towards certain people. It’s hard to describe here or reveal my results because you are asked to put certain items in order not knowing why and by revealing my answers I’d give away conclusions , but trust me, it’s fun and it’s very revealing. I did it at work some years back and learned a lot from it. Many sites offer it so just search for it online if you’re curious.

 

 

 

Enneagram

Another popular personality test is the Enneagram. I’ve never taken it but know many who have. It is based on the ancient enneagram symbol and reveals patterns to describe how people interpret and manage their emotions. It consists of nine personality types and uses the ancient enneagram symbol that can be traced back as far as the work of Pythagoras to illustrate how the types relate to on another. Using Virtues, Passions, Holy Ideas, and Ego-Fixations, nine personality types are described. They are: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker. My guess is I’d be a Reformer, Individualist, or Loyalist. The test has long been used in both business and spirituality contexts as a way of helping participants gain self-awareness, self-understanding, and self-development. Have you taken this test? What did it reveal?

 

 

Much of all of these is the old right brain/left brain thought process.  I know I am very left brain dominant but I’ve never understood how or why letters and numbers are on the same side as I am horrible with numbers but love all things letters, language, and grammar. I also think way more long-term than short-term. Guess no one is perfect after all. But we already knew that.

 

The beauty of all these tests are they highlight both strengths and weaknesses. I’m the first one to tell you I wish I wasn’t such a planner and could be more spontaneous so if you’re reading this and are any of the opposites of me, give me a call. This Introvert/ISFJ/Upholder/Storyteller needs a little prodding! Test me. I just might pass.

 

 

 

 

We Can Only Hope September 15, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:02 pm

Every day I check in with a calendar I keep on my desk. It’s called “30 Days of Gratitude” and consists of 30 days of just that: thinking of things one day at a time that you are grateful for. Each day asks a simple question like “what book are you grateful for,” “what knowledge are you grateful for,” “what tradition are you grateful for,” and so on and so on. Five of them individually and randomly ask what taste, sight, touch, sound, and smell are you grateful for. I gotta say, I love these kinds of uncomplicated yet thought provoking ponderings.

 

 

Taste on the day I read it happened to be lettuce wraps as our daughter was home for the weekend and requested them for dinner. It’s not so much that I love lettuce wraps, although I do, it was more that she was home and cooking them for her warmed my heart. As for what sound I was grateful for on the day it was presented? It was the sound of thousands of boats filled with happy people on a lake. Touch came on a day that I visited the classroom I’d taught in for many years but was stepping away from. I went in to clean out all my personal items and say goodbye to what brought me so much joy for so many years. Touching the people and things in it is something I was very grateful for that day and will be forever. When prompted what sight I was grateful for, it was finding one of our Beagles sound asleep right inside our daughter’s suitcase. Precious! The last query was “What smell are you grateful for?” And although I didn’t have an immediate answer for it, it proved very timely.

 

 

It just so happened that very day I listened to a podcast by Emily P. Freeman who posed the question, “If hope had a smell, what would it be?” I’ve always loved the name Hope for a girl and try to never give up hope but I’ve never thought for one minute how it would smell. But, I also love Freeman, who has written several amazing books and her “The Next Right Thing” podcast is one of my go-to’s so when she presented that question, I had to stop and think.

 

So, what does hope smell like? What does it smell like to you? Is it always the same smell or does it vary?

 

 

My first thought was Easter lilies. They are one of my favorite flowers, smell uh-mazing, and what presents more hope than Easter? I also thought of lemons cuz they smell great and I love everything lemon. Then I went to my favorite smells – roasting garlic, a new can of tennis balls, Play-Do, my favorite candles, and even my dogs – but none of them seemed to fit the “smell of hope” qualifier. I dug deeper and was motivated by some of Freeman’s followers’ replies:

 

  • Sweat, because you have to work hard at it
  • Sea salt and lavender
  • The air on a fall morning
  • When the ocean is just around the corner or over that last dune and you can’t see it but you can smell it
  • A new baby
  • Long awaited rain on dusty soil
  • Fresh cut grass
  • When I first open the door to my new classroom after summer break and have equal parts nostalgia and possibility.
  • The first smell of morning coffee
  • Fresh squeezed lemons
  • Chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven
  • Sautéing butter and onions
  • Rain before or after a storm

 

I agree with so many of those…the ocean, rain, butter and onions, grass, and yes, coffee. The possibilities are endless!

 

As luck would have it, spiritual mamma and mentor Susie Davis had also listened to the podcast and naturally had the perfect answer: baking bread. Bingo! What a fabulous smell, right? But her reason had so much more than just something yummy baking. Susie wrote:

 

“Because it’s that same smell I remember from my second grade field trip to Mrs. Baird’s Bakery on Airport, hoping I would get my hands on a slice of freshly baked bread. And it’s the smell I distinctly remember in my sister’s first kitchen in her first tiny little house in her early years of marriage. I hoped I would grow up to be a wife and mama just like her. It also reminds me of how I used to make sourdough bread for my son every week of his senior year in high school because he loved it – and I realized he wouldn’t be living in my house much longer. And now, I make bread for my parents and deliver it to them on their front porch. Fresh baked bread reminds my dad of his mom who used to make it for him when he was a boy.”

 

Now that’s an answer, right?

 

Once again and as always, she inspired me and I’m going with my first choice of Easter lilies.

 

 

If hope had a smell, it would be Easter lilies, those bright white, single-bud, and fabulous smelling blooms. Hope, because when you buy one, they are closed but you hold out hope knowing they will soon open up and share that glorious smell with whatever room they are in. Hope because they come in the spring, which is when the earth is hopeful and opening up to blooming and warmer weather. Hope because you can replant them once all their blooms are gone and they will grow again next year, bringing all that hope back again. And hope because they come at Easter, the holiday where all of our hopes are realized and true hope is back.

 

 

Hope is something we so desperately need right now as our country and culture decays more and more each day. If hope had a smell, it would be that everyone would stop and smell the Easter lilies and stop seeing hate and hearing deception. We can only hope.

 

 

A New Tradition September 10, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:00 am

House Beautiful

I read something recently that brought a smile to my face: traditional home décor is back; and in a big way. Yep, think dark woods, four-poster beds, antique sideboards, fabric window treatments, wallpaper, and the like. But why; why now? If you think about it, it’s actually pretty simple to figure out.

 

Collectively we as a society have been essentially locked in our homes for months on end now. We work at home, school at home, exercise at home, and pretty much do everything at home. Spending so much time in our homes has caused many to redo and redecorate as staring at the same four unpainted walls is wearing on us.

 

At the same time, we’re in the midst of a growing list of historical events that have basically shaken us to our core. We all feel stressed and uncertain about so much. We have been forced to make major changes and change is always hard. The result? The longing for days gone by and the “good ole days.” Enter traditions and all things traditional.

 

I’m totally on board as I’ve always loved traditional design and furnishings. And although I like looking at and learning about Mid-Century Modern, French Country, Feng Shui, or the latest design trends, give me elegant and charming over sleek or trendy any day of the week.  I’m with designer Erin Gates of Elements of Style in that my design style of choice is updated traditional using a mix of timeless pieces, antiques, and some modern accents thrown in for texture and fun.  Practical has my name all over it, whether it be life choices or design picks.

 

To be sure, I’m no designer by trade and the “new traditional” might not be for everyone or trending everywhere, I’m just here to share what I’ve learned and what I personally prefer.

 

Bunny Williams Interior Design

Katie Laughridge of Tribune News Service recently wrote about the growing interest in traditional design and credits our longing for nostalgia and simpler times as key to its re-emergence. Our brains, she writes, naturally make connections to places, things, and even scents that comfort us and give us a sense of peace. This could be anything from grandma’s hand-me-down dresser to great Uncle Larry’s book collection. These have a way of tying us to the past; a past we are longing for like perhaps never before.

 

Still, as with anything, don’t go crazy or overboard with your dark wood choices and toile wallpaper. You might want formal, but make it fun. You might want grandma’s drop-leaf table, but you don’t want your home to scream grandma. The elegance of a Queen Ann chair complete with the requisite cabriole legs and padded feet is a tad more heavy then a graceful mahogany Hepplewhite with its straight legs and shield or spider backs, but either can be paired with more contemporary pieces.

 

Queen Anne and Hepplewhite dining chairs are two of my all-time favorite purchases, but maybe think about pairing them with a more modernistic and sleek table rather than a Duncan Phyfe pedestal table or, upholster them in a more playful fabric. Or, flip that thought and pair that pedestal table with perhaps mismatched traditional style chairs or lacquered red bamboo chairs. Not only will you create interest and texture, you’ll add a pop of much-needed color! This concept is expertly illustrated in these three photos:

 

In this BH&G photo, formal Queen Ann chairs sport more casual checked seats.

 

A formal Duncan Phyfe table is paired above with what might be formal chairs whimsically slip-covered in a fun and pleated check and joined by a very casual window seat.

 

A columned-legged chair above is upholstered in a sunny yet cozy yellow velvet and is joined by a matching table, yet is also paired with a modern acrylic X-bench in this photo from Veranda. Accessories include traditional blue and white vases and modern art on the wall.

 

I love that a new generation of home décor style makers and enthusiasts are returning to all things their childhoods, be it chintz, checks, and Chippendale or brass, bead-board, and book-filled rooms. And, even though the scheme is old, the names are not. So far I’ve heard or read about New Traditional, Neo-Traditional, Modern Vintage, and even Grand-Millennial. Whatever you call it, call it mixing the old with the new.

 

 

So, how to get timeless sensibility and design that will last? Megan Beauchamp of mydomaine.com spoke with designer Lori Henle who recommends staying away from popular styles that will age quickly and that you will likely grow tired of and instead think of making old-school design current. This could be a schoolhouse style ceiling light fixture, fabric window treatments, a dramatic antique serving as a kitchen island like in the photo above, or wallpaper in the powder room or on an accent wall. Accessorize those rooms with personal items you’ve collected or family heirlooms you’ve acquired so that your home feels like your home and not overly staged or designer designed.

 

 

Veranda

“Traditional” is defined as habitually done or long established, which could also define traditional design. In fact, it was established long ago and has been habitually done since its inspiration of early European décor, most commonly English but also French. You could say there’s nothing more traditional than a stately Louis XV or wingback chair, but how inviting is the above photo of a traditional formal room with a less traditional fabric on the Louis XV and fellow side chair? Traditional design is yes, often formal, but it doesn’t have to be stuffy. It generally uses natural materials and colors and incorporates grand architectural elements like raised panel doors, built-in cabinetry, heavy trim work, and grand fireplaces. But, as Henle notes, even if your home is lacking any or all of these traditional design hallmarks, you can still get the look while keeping it modern.

 

“The new traditional has a modern influence that creates warmth and ease with subtle layers of texture, color, and bold finishes,” she told MyDomaine. “Start with a neutral color base and add colorful accents and bold large-scale pieces to make a statement as opposed to lots of smaller pieces, which can look busy and cluttered.”

 

You might splurge and purchase a stunning Chesterfield sofa but then maybe upholster it in leather and then add a chunky cable knit throw and velvet accent pillows to add depth and snuggle factor to an otherwise very traditional piece of furniture. Rustic and metals work great with traditional looks, so maybe place a more rustic or metal nightstand next to your four-poster bed.

 

 

The Inspired Room

Look anywhere and farmhouse apron sinks and bridge-style faucets are everywhere. If anything is “old school” it’s a farmhouse and its country style. These uber popular sinks might share a kitchen with more modern cabinet hardware or a sleek counter material, but make no mistake, they are old and they are the new new. Your thought process should not be to have head-to-toe traditional style (or any other style for that matter), but to add modern pieces to offset a sometimes too stiff traditional design.

 

All design experts are in agreement when it comes to furnishing an entire room: don’t pick pieces that are a matched set with the same fabric, wood, and finish. Doing so makes a room look dated from the get go and lack interest. Mix your woods with metals such as iron or brass, add color and pattern, and maybe even add a painted piece. But stick to just one piece of painted word furniture in a room as any more will start to look like a flea market.

 

One Kings Lane

And don’t forget function. All those mahogany lined libraries in old English manors may look beautiful and impressive, but did anyone really read in them? Keep your sofas comfy, your kitchen workable, and grandpa’s old writing desk could work great even with laptops and Zoom calls.

 

The 2020 quarantine has left us all feeling a bit isolated and in search of stability and certainty. We are also longing for warmth, safety, and security, which customs and traditions are conventionally known for, so if that means watching Netflix seated in a Martha Washington chair or working from home on a highboy secretary, I’ll take it. Sounds like a classic move to me.

 

Here are just a few more examples:

 

This adorable black-and-white bedroom from House Beautiful showcases a traditional spool bed, wallpaper, and window cornice valances with more contemporary woven shades, an iron nightstand, and contemporary prints.

 

Black-and-white is the concept in this Cynthia Weber designed eating area that incorporates a traditional curio cabinet, round spool table, Windsor chairs, striped valance, and butler’s tray but corners it all with more rustic accessories.

 

Nothing but formal here in this bedroom featured in Traditional Home. The four-poster bed and elaborate fireplace, mantle, and artwork harmonize perfectly with the heavy trim work detail while the mirror above the bed adds a slight contemporary flair.

 

Coziness is on point as is traditional style featuring Windsor chairs and lantern light coupled with a more rustic table, painted brick fireplace, and mix-and-match leaned artwork.

 

Windsor chairs flank a rustic trestle table flanked by window seat and woven shades.

 

Hobby Lobbying for Habit Forming September 1, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:00 am

Happy New Year! Say what? Yes, I know it’s not actually the start of a new year, but it’s the start of a new month and a month that is often associated with newness: new school year, new season, new routines, new clothing, new weather, and much more. Yes, I’m also aware this September is different on so many levels, but maybe that just means it’s even more reason to look at it as a fresh start and reason to begin again. It’s worth a try, right? If nothing else, September is just one more month closer to the end of 2020!

 

 

“Happiness Project” writer Gretchen Rubin considers September the perfect time to wipe a clean slate and if someone who writes about happiness for a living embraces the idea, so do I. First of all, fall is my favorite season and it just so happens to “fall” in September each year. September 22 if you’re wondering. I love everything about fall: the weather starts cooling off, summer clothing I’ve worn since March can start making its way to the back of the closet to make room for more fallish attire, and I love Thanksgiving and football.

 

September is also the official “back-to-school” month, give or take a few weeks, making it the ideal month to put routines back into our lives. These might be going to bed earlier and maybe even eating healthier after a summer of snacking. Again, this year is different but there’s still a need for school, which means a need for school supplies. I love school and office supplies! I also love calendars, and September is often the month we take a hard look at calendar dates for the rest of the year. Summer and its somewhat leisureness is gone; time to ramp up the check lists. Again, different this year but to add a smidgen of normalcy into the most non-normal of years, try to consider this September in a more normal way. Just try.

 

It is said that September is a month, much like January, when people consider career moves, join gyms, and get married. September is now second only to October as the most popular wedding month.  It’s the time of year that we make goal setting changes (gotta catch up on those January resolutions you’ve allowed to waiver) and rethink our routines and rituals. Since March, we’ve been hearing the benefits of engaging in a new hobby so if you haven’t already, why not start in September?

 

As Rubin notes, now more than ever we are all in search of happiness-boosting habits, right? Gloom and doom and “the world is against you” is knocking at your door and screaming from your computer and TV screens 24/7, so why not tell them to GET OUT and get into a new hobby that makes you happy?

 

HOBBY LOBBYING

A hobby is something you do regularly for your own pleasure. It’s doing something you are passionate about or maybe just interested in. I like to consider hobbies as having things to do rather than having to do things. They are options, not demands. A hobby you enjoy is a great way to release and relieve stress and take your mind off of all the Negative Nancys out there. The idea is, if you fall in love with a hobby, it may just become a habit, which are things we do repeatedly and regularly. To contrast, hobbies we purposely pursue but habits we may not even realize we’re doing. Let’s look at both hobbies and habits. First, hobbies!

 

 

So where to start? Well, maybe ask yourself what makes you feel good or makes you happy. What interests you? What do you really like to do when you have any free time? Rubin suggests asking yourself what you did for fun when you were 10 and whether you can duplicate it in some grown-up way now. It’s probably much easier than you think.

 

 

Since March, we’ve all been living in somewhat isolation, despair, frustration, worry, and monotony. Well, according to developgoodhabits.com, one of the best ways to break monotony is to discover a hobby you find both interesting and enjoyable.  We’ve all had time on our hands and during this time, I for one have discovered the hobby of golf and can honestly say that, for the first time after years of playing the sport, I am really enjoying it. It’s gotten me safely outside without having to wear a mask, it’s introduced to me a squad of women I have fun with, it’s allowed me to talk about and watch golf with my husband (My name is Carla and I’m officially a golf widow) with more enthusiasm, and it’s provided a sense of accomplishment. These are all things hobbies can do for you.

 

 

Not only do hobbies give you a meaningful way to pass the time, they often make you more patient, as anytime you learn something new, it’ll take time. Patience is a virtue though right? Now granted, you don’t want to break the bank, go into debt, hurt yourself physically, or take up something at the expense of your family or job, so think about it and think smart. If you’re on a limited budget, travel or designer bag collecting probably wouldn’t be smart choices. Same goes if you’re older and out-of-shape; I wouldn’t recommend horse jumping or gymnastics. Again, think smart.

 

 

And always, always remember whatever route you take, it doesn’t have to be something you dive in full throttle forever. Try your hand at different things until you discover where you want to be; even if just temporarily. I personally don’t love to cook, but I love cooking classes so you might say I have a hobby of going to cooking classes but not really cooking much of what I learn in them. And that’s okay!

 

Whatever you wisely choose, know that the benefits of healthy hobbies are many, including:

 

  • Hobbies give you a sense of purpose. Many of us are doers; we don’t like to sit around and do nothing. Personally, the sitting around doesn’t bother me, it’s the doing nothing. That’s why I learned to cross-stitch many years ago. It gives me something to do while just sitting watching TV or the like.

 

  • Hobbies offer challenges, experiences, and learning opportunities. It’s never too late to learn something new and in fact, experts say you should read and learn something new and worthwhile every day and continue to learn new things throughout life. I think of my mom who for years has refused to learn how to use a a cell phone. My sisters and I, as well as my nieces, have tried and tried and even bought her more than few, but she refuses to embrace any technology. I can’t help but think of all the face times and texted photos of her kids, grand kids, and even great grand son that she’s missed out on. And don’t even get me started on the safety issue of it all. But I digress. For years, my New Year’s Resolution has been to learn something new. I may not have loved each endeavor I chose and might not have continued doing all of them, but I loved learning all of them and had so much fun doing so. You see, with hobbies there’s no pressure to be perfect and dabbling in new ones gets you out of your comfort zone, which is a real challenge for me.

 

  • A hobby can be beneficial in the workplace. I can’t tell you how many deals my husband has made on the golf course and career coaches confirm that having a hobby often improves job performance. A common hobby could endear you to a colleague, boss, or client and hobbies in general help you handle stress more effectively. They also present you with something productive to focus on when you’re off the clock and allow you to have a life outside of work. They also prove passion and drive, which no direct report is going to scough at.

 

 

  • You could make money through your hobby. Have you heard of Etsy? It’s a site that began as a place for people to sell homemade items but much like Amazon, it’s rocketed into something much bigger and more commercial. It’s proof that those quilts, painted rocks, or cards you have made a hobby of crafting can maybe make you some extra money. Or just joy. A dear friend of mine has started painting rocks and although I’m sure she’s getting much joy out of it, so are those she gifts them to. Trust me, she rocks! You could also go the way of teaching your craft or consulting. A beloved hobby can also be an avenue to give back by way of volunteering, mentoring, entertaining in nursing homes or schools, walking dogs, or cooking at a soup kitchen.

 

 

  • At the very least, hobbies like walking, tennis, kayaking, swimming, and yoga are good for you physically and they can also be great opportunities for social interaction. But be sure you do what you love to ensure your hobby will remain enjoyable and maybe even become a healthy habit. That’s how and why I discovered yoga many years ago. I kinda fell into it in our old neighborhood but it had me at Namaste. Even in the beginning, I never felt inadequate or like I couldn’t keep up and yet I was sweating, stretching, and balancing in ways I never had. I was also focused and centered and felt so relaxed yet invigorated after every class. I like to say I bend so I don’t break. Find you your yoga so your exercise hobby doesn’t feel like a chore.

 

 

  • A healthy hobby is also mentally healthy. They keep you from being bored, which is when many turn to alcohol, gambling, drugs, porn, overeating, and other potentially destructive behaviors and habits. By being excited about what you’re doing, you have something to look forward to and stress has been shown to decrease when you’re engaged in something you enjoy. There’s also evidence that healthy hobbies help ward off depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. In one study, 74 percent of participants suffering from anxiety reported knitting calmed them. Other hobbies often suggested for this purpose include listening to music, keeping a gratitude journal, and playing with pets. Maybe that’s why I’m such a cheerful happy self (hah!) as I do all three of those daily!

 

 

  • The “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” train of thought means hobbies are also good for kids as they tend to keep them out of trouble. School teams, groups, clubs, and other activities not only give participants something to work for and proudly be a part of; they keep them from sitting around and falling into bad habits.

 

  • Your soul is where God dwells and yet we tend to spend more time taking care of our bodies then we do our souls. We need soul care and hobbies can do just that. Things like daily prayer and meditation are hobbies we could all benefit from, and society as a whole could too. People who feel inspired from above and/or grounded to the earth tend to be more calm, peaceful, purposeful, likable, and recharged. Those are my people.

 

 

  • Hobbies lighten the load. Things are serious out there. We can’t eat out. Our favorite shops are either shut down or boarded up. We have to wear masks. And for goodness sake don’t touch your face! Many a meme is out there stating that our current favorite hobbies are “placing order” and tracking a package. It doesn’t need to be like that though. A hobby you delight in can help you escape from pandemic paranoia and put you back on a more peaceful path.

 

  • At the same time productive and fun hobbies can improve our self-esteem and self-confidence because they make us feel like we’re good at something. I may not be the best golfer or cross-stitcher, but I can feel like I’m pretty good at either on any given day. By both taking on a new pursuit and improving at it, we acquire motivation and a sense of accomplishment. But remember to think out of the box and out of your comfort zone for maximum confidence boosting.

 

  • With improved confidence often comes improved character and a sense of wanting to improve the world around us. You might see things differently if you learn a foreign language and study the countries where it’s spoken. By taking cooking classes on ethnic cuisine, you will most likely gain a new perspective on the culture behind it while being exposed to a diverse group of people, ideas, and opinions. Come to think about it, maybe this is the hobby we should all be doing right now!

 

  • All of this happiness and confidence can also lead to improved relationships and expanded social circles. Like me, you might discover a hobby you and your spouse can do together for many years to come. There so many options for this benefit alone, including music and dance lessons to wine tasting and floral arranging. All of them, with or without a spouse, present fresh ways to meet new people. You already know you share an interest, so why not share a dinner too?

 

  • As we age, so do many parts of us including our memory but by regularly doing purposeful activities that make us focus, we can improve our memory and brain function. Chess, computer classes, sewing, and even crossword puzzles have all proven beneficial in protecting the brain from memory loss due to aging. Plus, by being part of a bridge or book club, you’re staying social and making friendships based around a common interest. Personally, I love to write (shocker!) but as I gradually “retired” from full-time work, I missed the actual pursuit of writing, hence this blog. I know it’s not earth shattering, I don’t have a million followers, and it doesn’t increase my bank account, but I love it and it keeps my brain working and sharp.

 

In the end, hobbies make you a more interesting person. You have something to share with others and possess knowledge they might find helpful or fascinating. You might even influence someone to take up a hobby themselves. Poof! You’re an influencer!

 

If anything, I hope I’ve convinced you to take time this month to find a new hobby you can attempt and then take time to engage in that activity. It might be something as relaxing as reading for 30 minutes every day or something creative like photography. Maybe you want to dip your toes in something like water aerobics or something a little more spicy like pickle ball. Just be sure to do it for you; not anyone else. Even if your friends love something doesn’t mean you have to. Remember, if you don’t really love it, it probably won’t be enjoyable or become a habit. Whatever you choose, it just might improve your mental health, sense of identity, stress level, usefulness, and morph into a habit. A good habit.

 

 

 

MAKE IT A HABIT

Changing your habits can change your life, whether it’s to stop smoking or start exercising, having healthy habits make us physically and mentally better off. Even as we peek outside our quarantined homes and wait for the next chapter of Revelation and Armageddon to descend up on us, we must make it a habit to choose wisely. Spiritual Mamma Susie Davis suggests adopting the habit of wonder over worry. As you walk or drive today, take time to wonder over the beautiful flowers you see or the fact that you have a working car instead of worrying about what comes next. Today, that worry can be daunting and debilitating so get in the habit of avoiding it at all costs. I know of what I speak, as I’m really good at worrying. Ask anyone I know. I’m working on it though.

 

 

During 2020 many of us have perhaps picked up some bad habits. Pretty sure we’re all guilty of number 2 above, but as Davis suggests, maybe instead of hoping for the good old days focus on the hope of good new days.  Numbers 4 and 8 above are also pretty common these days, and I may be good at worrying but I’m equally good at number 9. For a while we were all eating too much bread and panicking too much. Now, after months of day drinking and show binging, it’s time to take stock and keep track of what we’re doing that may be leaning toward the path of bad habit. What are you doing every day and is it good for you?

 

“Maybe an artist’s discipline, process, and routine – habits if you will – were just ruts with a purpose.”

That, from the fabulous Richard Russo book, “Bridge of Sighs.” Could that be? “Ruts with a purpose?” I kinda love that unique description of habits and can only hope that I continue to pursue and perfect many a purposeful rut.

 

One way to do so is by “habit stacking.” Sometimes called “pairing,” the idea is to create new habits by attaching them to existing habits. For example, if you want to make it a habit to take your daily vitamins and you already eat breakfast every day, take those vitamins when you eat breakfast. If you’re wanting to pray more and you already read every night before bed, add a prayer book or two to that stack of novels and mysteries. The idea is if you attach a new habit to something you already do, the odds of the new habit becoming a permanent habit are high. Brilliant, right?

 

The brilliant Japanese have this idea down pat; they even have a fun term for it: “poka-yoke,” which in Japanese loosely means “mistake proofing.” It got its start and stardom in Toyota’s production lines when managers would think ahead and proactively to eliminate both human error and equipment problems. Eliminate the problem before it’s a problem and you have no problem!  On the home front, if you have a sweet tooth and are wanting to lose weight, don’t buy cookies or ice cream. If finances are currently tight, plan your commute ahead and probably don’t take toll ways.

 

Yet another way to look at stacking is to incrementally increase how long you do something each day. Set your bar low and allow for slow growth. If you’re hoping to start the habit of daily walking, start by maybe walking 15 minutes on day one and adding five minutes every day. Being physically active during the day will also pay-off in that you’ll be more tired at night. Bedtime hobbies and habits are also where you might consider making daily interval changes. Do you turn on the TV and/or check your phone or laptop again and again? Change things up by seriously limiting your screen time each night and adjust your nightly bedtime. Start with maybe one hour of screen time each night and a 10 p.m. shut eye. Adjust these times and you’ll soon see improved sleep habits. Ultimately, you might even be able to replace those old screen time habits and replace them with new ones like reading (nothing scary or intense!) or listening to mindful podcasts or music, which can slow your heart rate, decrease brain waves frequency, and help you sleep more soundly.

 

Sometimes all it takes is a little outside encouragement to incorporate a good habit or quit a bad one. Our daughter was immensely important to my not new but improved habit of walking while she was home early on during this pandemic. She was adamant about walking several times a day and was so instrumental in getting me to do so once-a-day. Reach out to coworkers, family members, neighbors, and the like if you’re in need of a little push. Most likely one of them does too.

 

 

So I leave you with the hope that your hobbies will increase and your good habits will improve. Don’t be too hard on yourself though and leave room to lighten up and laugh; especially at yourself. Your goal should be to keep your body and brain moving. We are all habitually stressed and anxious these days, so make it a habit to discover a hobby that makes you happy. It might just become habit forming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Cup Runneth Over August 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:14 pm

The smell of fresh brewed coffee is truly one of life’s little pleasures. If you are a coffee drinker like me, you know the joy of tasting that first sip of morning java. There’s just something about the flavor and the warmth that starts me off on the right foot. A coffee snob I am not though. I’m not of the Starbucks bandwagon and I don’t own a French press. I’m not picky about the actual coffee, but I am picky about the creamer. Give me medium-to-strong coffee and a flavored creamer and I’m happy. Lots of creamer. I prefer a flavored sugar-free version but will do plain creamer if need be. I jokingly tell my friends that like my Sooner crimson, I like my coffee with cream!

 

 

Not surprising then is that my favorite, as my husband calls them, “fruh-fruh” coffee drinks (he drinks his black and his personality totally matches the above chart!) are café con leche, a tall skinny latte, café au lait, or cappuccino, and yes, my personality matches my coffee choices too. The last one, cappuccino, is made with espresso and a milk foam mixture and is popular the world over. Its origins are not surprisingly Italian, as is its name, but the name didn’t come by way of  a barista or coffee grower, but by someone who may just surprise you.

 

 

 

Way back in 1648 a young Mark of Aviano became a Capuchin monk and eventually made his way preaching all over Italy following several years of cloister. He became counselor on religious and political matters to Leopold I, emperor of Austria; secured the release of Vienna from the Ottoman Turks; and worked as a peacemaker throughout Europe. Legend has it that the Ottomans fled from Christian soldiers but left behind their strong, bitter coffee. As a way of making the brew sweeter and more palatable, it was mixed with honey and milk and the new drink was named after Blessed Mark’s order, the Capuchins, which later mutated into “cappuccino.” The monks are known for their brown hooded robes, which happen to be the color of a cup of cappuccino, and “cappuccino” is Italian for “hood.”

 

Cappuccinos aren’t the only coffee with a history. In fact, the history of coffee itself is quite interesting and also has a connection to monks, albeit a smaller one than cappuccino.

 

 

 

According to many and the National Coffee Association, coffee was originally discovered in Ethiopia where it’s said a goat herder named Kaldi learned the amazing potential of coffee beans after he noticed an increased level of energy in his goats after eating coffee berries. Kaldi quickly told the abbot of the local monastery about his findings who subsequently made a drink using  the berries and discovered he was much more alert after doing so. The abbot spread the word with other monks and soon word moved the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East, where as early as the 16th century coffee was used to help with concentration.

 

Coffee made its way to Europe by the 17th century after European travelers to the Near East discovered what they considered an unusual dark black beverage. Religious life came into play yet again however, when in 1615 local clergy condemned the drink when it arrived in Venice. So great was the controversy that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene but after tasting it himself, he found it delightful and gave it official Papal approval.

 

Coffee and coffee houses flourished in Europe, so much so that many businesses grew out of them. Lloyds of London, the famous insurance marketplace, began as a coffee house. It wasn’t long before coffee made its way to America, thanks to the British in the mid-1600s. It was a hard sell however, as tea was the preferred drink in the New World until 1773, when the colonies revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. Yep, what you had was the Boston Tea Party, something we’ve been hearing a lot about lately and something that forever changed the American hot drink preference to coffee. I’ll drink to that!

 

It wasn’t long before missionaries, travelers, and traders started sharing and selling coffee beans and seeds and trees were planted worldwide. Plantations cropped up in huge numbers and nations were established based on their coffee economies. By the end of the 18th century coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops and today it is the second-most traded commodity in the world behind only petroleum.  As for rankings by metric tons of exported coffee, Brazil tops the list followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia.

 

 

Caffeine is burnt off as coffee is roasted so “light” coffee actually has more caffeine then medium or darker blends.

 

 

Whether you’re a liker of a robust coffee or a lighter “breakfast blend” drinker, know that caffeine is burnt off as coffee is roasted so “light” coffee actually has more caffeine then medium or darker blends. There are so many brands and types of coffee it’s almost hard to keep up with all of them. I get nervous just walking into a coffee house and having to decide what coffee drink I want and what size. So many choices!  But whether you prefer Tim Hortons or Gevalia, regular or flavored, there are two names that have interesting histories: chicory and Folgers. Yes, Folgers.

 

Let’s start with chicory.

 

 

Think New Orleans and you think chicory coffee. No visit to the Crescent City is complete without coffee and beignets at the legendary Café Du Monde. But is chicory coffee, which is all Café Du Monde and many other NOLA coffee houses serve, different or special? As the French would say, oui oui!

 

Chicory is actually a pretty flowering plant and it’s the root of the plant that gets roasted and ground into chicory coffee. Since the 19th century the French have mixed it with coffee and the word “chicory” is a English-ized version of the French word “chicoree.”

 

According to “Smithsonian Magazine,” following that famous tea party up in Boston, the French established coffee plantations in the Caribbean and solidified the trade with the founding of New Orleans. Coffee crops soon became part of the city’s culture and by 1840, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee in the U.S. But during the Civil War, Union blockades cut off access to the port so ingenious Louisianans began looking for ways to stretch coffee supplies. They tried acorns and beets but discovered that chicory was the way to go as it is cheap and goes a long way. The rest, is coffee history although today very little chicory is grown commercially in the U.S. and even Café Du Monde gets it supply from France.

 

Who does get their coffee from New Orleans? Folgers!

 

 

“The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.” You’ve heard it a million times and probably just sang the tune in your head as you read the words, right? The jingle is one of America’s most recognizable and is easily considered a part of American culture. But it didn’t start the Folger’s story. That’s a whole other story.

 

It all began when a young James Folger and his brothers moved from Nantucket to San Francisco in search of gold. They didn’t find gold per se, but he ultimately found something golden.

 

James’ brothers headed out to work in the mines but he got a job at The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills and later became a full partner. After the Civil War and resulting economic collapse, the company went bankrupt but Folgers convinced creditors to pay off the debts and then he bought out all remaining partners. J.A. Folger & Co. was born.

 

Coffee demand increased during WWII, but wartime shipping routes from Central America to New Orleans made NOLA one of the largest green-coffee markets in the U.S. so construction began on a New Orleans plant for Folgers in 1960. The company, now a part of the J.M. Smucker Company, still manufactures its coffee at its New Orleans plant today.

 

 

Interesting little stories, right? But what about those famous and beloved cups of coffee from none other than McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts? Yep, say what you will, but Mickey D’s and DD’s have some pretty amazing coffee.

 

The reported secret behind McDonald’s coffee is the blend of Arabica beans used by its supplier Gavina and grown in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. It is considered true gourmet coffee and is a medium roast. It’s also said that McDonald’s brews fresh coffee every 30 minutes so you never get a cup of old tasting brew.

 

Dunkin Donuts also boasts that its coffee comes from 100 percent Central and South American Arabica beans. The chain also works with the Rainforest Alliance to make sure its coffee is ethically sourced. In fact, the grocery store version of Dunkin Donuts coffee is USDA organic and Fairtrade.

 

 

It’s estimated that 64 percent of Americans over age 18 drink coffee every day, with Baby Boomers leading the pack. When it comes to worldwide coffee consumption, the Finns have us all beat. Only Finland and Sweden drink more than 22 pounds of coffee per person per year, with the Finnish drinking nearly three pounds annually. That’s a “latte” coffee and who knew, right? I would have thought it would be Americans, French, or Italians.

 

One more fun tidbit. How and why is coffee called “joe?” Credit a man named Josephus Daniels who became Secretary of the Navy during WWI. Among his many goals was to improve morality among the sailors and one way he tried was by prohibiting alcohol and purchasing more coffee. Disparagingly, a cup of coffee became known as a “cup of Joe Daniels,” which ended up being today’s more common “cup of Joe.”

 

 

There are many names for coffee. Some refer to how it is made or brewed, such as drip or espresso, while other names describe a specific beverage made using coffee such as latte or cappuccino. It’s also common to hear coffee called “java” but not all coffee is truly java in nature.

 

“Java” actually comes from the island of Java where the Dutch introduced coffee during the 1600s. They soon began planting coffee on several Southeast Asian islands, including Java, where Arabica coffee is still grown today. How and why all coffee came to be called java is somewhat of a mystery although many assume the Dutch started it.

 

 

So we’ve established that people the world over think coffee is good, but did you know it can also be good for you? We often associate coffee with the caffeine in it and the jitteriness it can cause, but that’s a very small part of the plant and bean’s make-up. Yes, elevating blood pressure is a concern we should individually consider, but some studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a slightly lower risk of having a stroke and showed no signs of increased heart disease risk.

 

The bottom line is that coffee has an impressive number of health benefits and is high in antioxidants. Many of the nutrients in coffee beans find their way into brewed coffee and studies show that countless people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables combined. A single cup of coffee is said to contain Vitamins B2 and B5, Manganese and potassium, and magnesium and niacin. Granted, the RDI percentages of each might be low, but when you consider that most of us drink more than just one cup per day, the numbers can quickly add up. And this is regular coffee, not any of the new vitamin and nutrient-infused brands like Vitacup. Other studied benefits of coffee include:

 

  • Improves energy levels, mood, and brain function.
  • Can increase fat burning and boost metabolic rates through its caffeine, which is one of few natural substances proven to help with fat burning.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, which signal fat cells to break down while increasing epinephrine/adrenaline blood levels.
  • May lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s, and colorectal cancer; may protect from Alzheimer’s and Dementia; and may protect the liver from both cancer and cirrhosis.
  • May fight depression and reduce suicide risk.

 

It should be noted that research indicates the presence of cafestol in coffee does affect the body’s ability to metabolize and regulate cholesterol so anyone with high cholesterol issues should take note.

 

 

So there you have it; everything you want to know about coffee and then some! I’ve enjoyed learning all about my morning (and sometimes afternoon or evening) friend and I hope you my friends did too.

 

Do Them a Favor August 12, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:31 pm

One of the growing list of misfortunes coming from the current COVID crisis are the many weddings and other would-be celebrations that have either been cancelled or postponed. Yes, when we’re dealing with job losses, deaths, and other more critical fallouts, a wedding may seem minor to many but to the families of the bride and groom, a cancellation or postponement are both catastrophic…and expensive. I’ve heard of several who have done one or the other and my daughter has been in or invited to many that have as well. And to add salt to the wound, they often get little or none of their money back, which is a vow no one wants to take.

 

But, that’s not the reason behind why I write today. I write to remind everyone about a common courtesy related to weddings and other events you are invited to.

 

My dear friend sent me something regarding RSVPs and she got me thinking. Do we even know what they truly are and do we really care? To me, they rank right up there with handwritten thank you notes. I’ve blogged about thank you notes before and I still say write them and send them! I’m also here to say that if I go out of my way to send you that registered wedding or shower gift, send you flowers for a death or a birth, or any other special token of my love and congratulations and I never receive a “thank you,” you probably won’t be receiving anything from me in the future.

 

But today’s post is about responding; not to a gift but to an invitation. Equally important so, if you’re one of the growing number of people who don’t RSVP and/or don’t send written thank you notes and aren’t teaching your kids to do so, you might want to stop reading now. Those of us with manners and etiquette won’t miss ya.

 

So, onto RSVPs.

 

Let’s think about it for a minute. You’re having a couple of neighbors over for a dinner party. You’re expecting 12 of them and plan accordingly. But, only six show up and the other half didn’t let you know they weren’t. You’re left with a much smaller affair and a lot of leftover food and empty seats. You’re probably not real happy with those who didn’t show. Now think about these same series of events occurring but with a much larger event like a 300 person wedding. You. Would. Be. Livid. And rightly so.

 

Whether we’re talking book club, a casual birthday party, a medium-sized baby shower, or a large wedding, you, as an invited guest, have two obligations: bring a gift and RSVP. Okay, maybe you don’t need to bring a gift to book club, but you do need to RSVP!

 

 

Four little letters: RSVP. But, what do those four letters stand for? Most of us would say something along the lines of “the favor of reply is requested,” which is pretty close. Eaux seaux close. Somewhat surprising is that credit goes to the French, who IMHO, are not the most polite or cordial people on the planet but who in this case got it right. Oui oui!

 

RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase “respondez s’il vous plait,” which directly translates to “reply, if it pleases you.” Funny how what seems like an option is understood by the French as a demand and that’s how it’s regarded the world over.

 

Stateside, it all started with, not surprisingly, socialites in the 1800s. These women more than likely idolized all things French style and perhaps even English status, so they wanted to be on board the bourgeois bus and none other than manners maven Emily Post climbed on board with them.  Failing to reply to an RSVP was tantamount to social out casting and showing up to an event without doing so was equally appalling. I’m not much one for social climbing or being someone you’re not, but I gotta agree with the ladies on this one.

 

 

Today’s high-tech world means many a high-tech invite, but there are still plenty of paper and mailed formal invitations out there. Many of them come complete with a self-addressed and stamped reply card that you, as the recipient of the invitation, should return ASAP or before the date listed. Yep, RSVP ASAP. It’s so easy!  Simply fill out the card and pop it in the mail.

 

Reply cards may vary a bit as some might include a meal choice and a line to fill in, which is usually preceded by an “M.” Following the M, write in your name (Mrs. Jane Smith or Mr. Marco Lopez) and then check the “will attend” or “won’t attend” box. As the above photo shows, you can make this task a bit more fun by how you word the options.

 

Another spot you might be asked to fill in is how many will be attending with your party. This depends on who the invitation is addressed to and whether you are allowed to bring a “Plus One,” or guest. How do you know?  Check who the invitation was addressed to, either on the front envelope or on the inner envelope. An invitation might go to “Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Feinstein and Family” and then the inner envelope would have written on it, “Gilbert, Sophie, Tucker, and Megan.” This means the whole family is invited so if all four are going to the event, put down four. Some invitations might just include your name on the invitation “and guest,” which means you are welcome to bring one guest. Fill in the RSVP with either one or two attendees. If an invite is addressed just to you, you’re going solo. And one more thing, never, ever ask if you can bring a guest!

 

If an invitation doesn’t include a pre-addressed reply card, it more than likely will have another option like an email or phone number. In any case, the rules of RSVP ASAP still apply.

 

 

Paperlesspost.com

As for the growing in popularity electronic invitations available through sites like Evite and Paperless Post, you will still be given options to respond; even if it’s with a simple “yes” or “no” reply button. Just make sure you do so as these are the types of invites that often get entered on our calendars right away but then go to cyberspace black holes never to be looked at again until maybe the day of the event. RSVPs to these simple invitations are just as important as those to multi-enveloped and engraved card-stock invitations.

 

In all RSVP cases, waiting to see if you get invited to something better or perhaps more personally preferred is not reason to hold off on sending an RSVP. Just as RSVP ASAP rules the reply roost, so does “first come, first served.” If the date is open, it’s open for the first event you get invited to.

 

Then there’s the sometimes confusing but really not “regrets only” option. This simply means the host is counting and planning on your attendance unless they hear from you otherwise. No need to reply unless you cannot make it.

 

Sadly, there will always be those who show up who didn’t RSVP. I remember a dear friend’s daughter was getting married last year and she didn’t know what to do as many invited guests had not responded either “yay” or “nay” to the fairly formal and costly affair. She didn’t know what to do.

 

Most experts agree that a phone call or text is appropriate follow-up to mailed invitations while online invites often include a follow up option. Just be sure to keep it cordial and friendly although your head may be exploding at the very idea that you even have to do this, and let them know you’re reaching out to confirm they’re attending. Put it on them to have to say, “OMG! I forgot to reply and I’m so sorry to say we won’t be there.” Hopefully they won’t do that again!

 

If you are the sender of an invitation that will include an RSVP date, that date is important. Paperlesspost.com says a good rule of thumb is to set your RSVP deadline three weeks prior to formal events like weddings and two weeks out for more casual get-togethers like birthday parties. These are dates assuming your invitation went out around six weeks prior to the event.

 

 

So why all the fuss? Well, for one, hosts spend lots of money planning their events and it’s just plain rude to not let them know whether they should be spending any money on you. Knowing how many people will be in attendance can also determine where to hold an event and even what to serve. It may sound like it’s all about money but it’s also all about manners.

 

As much of the world continues to venture into a less formal and more casual way of life, I’m of the thinking that some things should never change. Being grateful and being polite are not “formal.” They are courteous and gracious, decent and respectable. Nothing old-fashioned about that. You can thank me later for this one.

 

 

 

Growing Like a Weed August 3, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:03 pm

With travel limited this summer, I seem to be a sister of the traveling porches. I’ve gone from our back patio to my mom’s back porch, back to our patio, onto my friend’s patio on a recent and much-need visit, and back to our patio. It’s all been good and both my mom and friend’s yards were abloom with my favorite flower: daisies! The simple and happy flower always brings a smile to my face so for a brief break from the virus, riots, and everything else destroying our country, I’m venturing away from the gloom and doom and instead writing about something happy and sappy: the delectable daisy. I hope it brings a smile to your face!

 

 

One of the most familiar flowers in the world, daisies can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They grow abundantly and they grow just about anywhere. So popular are they that, much like a rose, even a child can recognize and name them. They are playful and even somewhat whimsical. They exude joy and innocence. Nothing fancy or expensive, just simple and simply delightful.

 

Their name is even special. “Daisy” originates from the Old English phrase “daes eage,” which means “day’s eye.” It is thought the flower was given the name because they close their petals at night and open them up in the morning. I’m no morning person, but I loved learning this.

 

 

In addition to their unique name, daisies also have a unique history. For literally thousands of years we have had a love affair with them. Cave carvings dating back to 3000 BC depict daisies and it’s a well-known fact that ancient Romans used them medicinally. The oils from daisies were extracted and used to treat wounds, avoid infection, and promote healing. The Romans were onto something, as we’ve come to learn that daisies contain anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and tea made from them can be used as a diuretic, to sooth sore throats and ease coughs, slow bleeding, and even treat colic. Not bad for a pretty little flower, right?

 

Victorian-era daisies also claim quite a history, as it was the ingenious and queenly Victorians who created the well-known “he loves me, he loves me not” pastime of plucking the petals of a daisy one-by-one. They also considered daisies a symbol of fidelity, making them perennial perennials in wedding bouquets.

 

 

They are still popular in bridal bouquets, baskets, and vased on a table, but did you know daisies are also edible? Closely related to artichokes, daisies make for a charming garnish, are great sources of vitamin C, and can relieve indigestion. Maybe “please don’t eat the daisies” is not so accurate after all! And lucky April birthdays, as the daisy is their birth flower.

 

If you’re like me, when you think of a daisy you probably think of the classic white-petaled bright yellow centered blooms, but there are many different versions of a daisy. Gerbera and Shasta are probably two of the most popular varieties, all of which are related to sunflowers. I am not a fan of sunflowers but it does make sense.

 

 

Growing daisies is somewhat of a no-brainer, even for a non-green-thumbed person like me. They say there’s a daisy for everyone and everyone can grow daisies. What I love about daisies in a garden is that they grow somewhat tall and full. I like to think of them as texture for my beds in that they stand out and stand tall yet stand unpretentious and carefree. Most start blooming in early summer and will gloriously continue to do so through fall. They are extremely adaptive and thrive in both wet and dry climates, sun and shade, and even mountains or prairie fields. As Melody Rose of davesgarden.com wrote, “they ask for very little and give back so much.” Plant that in your brain and grow with it.

 

In general, sow daisies in the fall for spring and summer blooms. Ridiculously easy to grown, simply prepare your garden soil by removing weeds, sprinkle daisy seeds, and keep them moist the first two-to-three weeks. A sunny, well-drained bed for starters is best. Once full and blooming, be sure to divide daisies when they become too bushy by removing a root ball and replanting it at least a foot away from the original plant. It’s also important to remove dead-heads from blooms to promote regrowth. One last tip: watch for aphids as they tend to like daisies. If you do see the pesky little critters on your flowers, simple spray with water, which usually shoos them away.

 

Although many daisies are considered annuals in that they bloom for just one season, many agree that if healthy and free of any frost, they tend to act more like perennials and return each year. I know for a fact that my mom’s daisies, which are in 7,000 feet and see snow every year, come back every year.

 

 

Although one of the most beloved flowers, daisies are not beloved by ranchers and farmers. Considered weeds in many parts of the world (one of the reasons they are so easy to grow), daisies can create hoe-ly havoc in pastures. Daisies produce huge amounts of seeds that remain viable for decades, meaning they are super hard to eradicate on places like farms and ranches. To make matters worse, cows don’t eat them so they tend to overgrow overtime and in abundance. Pretty yes, but a pretty pain too. On the flip side, deer don’t eat them either, which makes them the perfect deer-resistant garden plant.

 

With all the talk of saving the bees these days, it’s also important to note that bees and other pollinators love daisies. Shastas are their favorites, but all daisies seem to “bee” popular and much like people, it’s partly due to their shape. Boasting a flat and open center, a daisy provides a large landing spot on which bees, butterflies, and other buzzers can easily collect pollen and nectar.

 

 

I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Lindbergh, who happens to be the author of my favorite book ever, “Gift from the Sea.” Clearly I’m not alone. Just look around and you can get lost in daisies on everything from clothing to jewelry to home décor and don’t most of us know at least one person or pet named Daisy? My grandma had a cat named Daisy Mae. Daisy was the object of Gatsby’s love. Daisy Duke made jean shorts famous. Who wouldn’t want to wear, decorate with, or be named after a flower associated with purity, loyalty, simplicity, and humility; a flower that even alone in a vase, exudes the word “cheerful.” If you ask me, what this country needs more of right now is more daisies. After all, where flowers bloom, so does hope.

 

Listen and Learn June 29, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:34 pm

There’s a lot of shouting going on out there. Yelling seems to be the current method of getting your message heard but sadly, some are yelling so loud and so much that many have literally stopped hearing them. The anger and hate is deafening and many are turning a deaf ear on what is hoped to be heard and in some cases, should be heard. Maybe for a minute, we should all stop screaming and instead start listening.

 

 

But, people in general just aren’t good listeners. We would much rather be talking. And posting. And commenting.  We seem to value speaking and being heard over listening and understanding. If by chance we do listen, it’s often just to set up our opinion or argument. We are living in a very politically and socially charged season right now and everyone has strong opinions they feel are the only opinions and more importantly, the only right opinions. As a wise friend once told me though, there are two sides to every story (and opinion): one side, the other side, and the truth. Think about that for a minute.

 

Think also about the oldie but goodie “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Rather then saying something demeaning or insulting, try breathing and listening. If you can’t be positive, be quiet. The silent majority often wins the battle even though some would have you believe all those squeeky wheels get the oil. Oil is slimy. Silence is golden.

 

 

Everywhere you look today someone has something to say but rarely hears what else is being said. Making our point is the goal, as is convincing others to approve what we believe and proving we are right by golly and you are wrong. End of story. End of post. End of any chance of agreement, reconciliation, or truce.

 

 

In short, we are good at talking but not so good at listening. Effective listening is an art; a learned skill. It is not something that’s arrived at easily or naturally, but it is an asset like no other. What if we just stopped for a minute to listen to others; really listen. Instead of planning and plotting our agenda and getting our points known, how about we work on truly understanding and comprehending another person’s position? As the Peace Prayer of St. Francis entreats, seek not so much to be understood as to understand. Something so simple and so benevolent could be the solution as we all strive for unity and acceptance.

 

It’s no secret that the quieter you become the more you can hear. We all want to be heard and are hearing a lot right now but much of it is falling on deaf ears because it’s being screamed at us in an unreceptive scolding tone. It’s also become non-stop screaming, which no one will listen to for very long. No one likes to be yelled at and everyone likes to be listened to.

 

Listening to others actually presents one with a win-win situation. Much of what we say is often misunderstood, which leads to conflict, frustration, and even disillusionment, as is so evidenced today. But, when you actively and respectfully listen to others, it encourages respect for both you and your opinion and a reciprocal level of listening back. In the perfect world course. There will be some…many probably…who no matter how much you listen to their side and opinion they will never listen to yours but if they don’t, it’s on them.

 

 

Listening is quite frankly the key to effective communication. You can yak away your position, but unless who you’re yaking to listens, it’s all for not. Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument. Some might say listening demonstrates weakness but I’m of the belief that smart people don’t plan big moves out loud. They let their success be their noise and know full well that silence is not a weakness. “Listen and learn” is real advice and real true.

 

 

To be a good listener, make who you’re listening to feel heard and maybe even understood. Make sure everyone feels safe in the conversation and focus on the speaker as they speak. In today’s online age, this is often impossible to do, but remember that when someone is stressed or insulted by what is being said or written, they are more likely to mishear or misread what you’re trying to get across. Never, ever try to convey emotions over the internet or texting and remember that feelings are never wrong. If what you say or write hurts someone’s feelings, your point is defeated. No one cares if you make them mad, but they do care if you hurt their feelings.

 

 

Lastly, pay close attention to who you’re listening to. There are many false prophets out there and you never want to take advice from someone you don’t respect. As you listen, present feedback in a polite yet informed manner and asks questions before submitting opinion or argument. Listen closely to what is being said and if there’s any doubt as to what the point is, repeat back what was said.

 

God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so He must have been on to something. A big part of loving is listening and a big part of praying is listening. God is constantly speaking to us but unlike us, he doesn’t scream so we need to be listening. When in prayer, we’re quick to present our petitions but do we ever sit still and listen to or for God? We’re good at talking to Him but not so good at talking with Him. Not bad advice when it comes to others as well.

 

 

I’d like to suggest that just for a day, maybe a week, or how about a month, try talking with people not talking to them. And talk to those whose opinions and outlooks differ from yours. Give them chance and give them a listen. You might just listen and learn.

 

 

Downward Dogs June 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:13 pm

We’re all in need of a little therapy these days aren’t we? My therapy consists of daily prayer and meditation, a good book or series, outdoor activities like golf and walking, and yoga. Yoga centers and calms me and like a former teacher once said, “We don’t use our body to get into a pose, we use a pose to get into our body.” My goal is not to do headstands, but to keep from being a stiff old lady who can’t bend, stretch, walk, or climb. I keep bending so I don’t break. In more ways than one.

 

Dogs also calm me and this morning the two…yoga and dogs…united in a most magical way.

 

Setting up for my online Mindful Vinyasa Flow class with the fabulous Nikki, all three of my dogs decided to join me. Normally I’d shoo them away, close the door, and practice dog-free. For some reason today however, all three of them seemed very calm, and in their own dog-like ways, very mindful. They each found a spot in the room and quietly laid down. Nikki often has her dog join us so I thought what the heck? And I’m doggone glad I did!

 

With Boomer perched on the bed, Nikki (one of my dogs, not my yoga instructor, but how foretelling that their names are spelled the same, which is not the standard spelling?!) in her little bed, and Barry snuggled alongside my mat, we all settled in for a little namaste. All during the class I was feeling a little upper body stiff and when it came time to twist on the floor and stretch, I found myself wishing I had yoga blocks. I don’t always use them and when I did, I just used ones in my class’s studio, but I kinda felt like I needed to move the ground up to rest my bent knees as they twisted to the right. As I did so, I felt Barry was right there and so I used him as a block. I didn’t think it would go well because Barry is the most skittish of our three rescues and I thought he would immediately startle and move away.

 

But he didn’t.

 

Instead, he stayed right next to me and continued to allow my knees to rest on him. It warmed my heart and took the term “downward dog” to a whole new level! I shared all of this with Nikki and fellow class attendees when class was over and we all admitted that none of us were really surprised. As Nikki said, dogs have a way of knowing what we’re feeling and what we need.

 

 

In fact, research suggests that dogs may actually possess and experience empathy, that psychological ability to feel someone else’s emotions. Barry convinced me of this today. He felt my need for support and steadily offered it.

 

A study published in the journal “Learning & Behavior” found that dogs who heard their owners call “HELP!” is a distressed tone opened a magnet-sealed door to reach them faster and more urgently than when they heard the same owners recite a nursery rhyme. Think about it. How many times have we seen dogs nuzzle up to a baby, protect their owner, rescue someone trapped, and go canine crazy after being reunited with an owner? They know. They feel.

 

This is also confirmed by Aaron McDonald, a canine behaviorist, dog trainer, and author of “Three Dimensional Dog: A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior,” who told “Eating Well” magazine, “Dogs are always keenly attuned to everything going on in a family. They record every nuance of ‘normal’ life and become concerned if we break that pattern.” He goes on to say that yelling distresses them even when it’s not directed at them, which is something my household needs to consider especially during football season!

 

I’ve often wondered during the whole COVID quarantine whether our three dogs have noticed that we are home all the time now. All the time. All day and night. From what Mr. McDonald said, they do and I’m of the thinking that they love it!

 

 

The above photo is one of Barry “holding hands” with our daughter who was home with us for 2 1/2 months earlier this summer working from home. When I saw it, I was shocked and so was she as Barry hates it when you touch or try to hold onto his paws. For some reason, he didn’t mind that day at that time. Did he sense a bit of anxiety in our daughter or perhaps he himself felt a a tad unsettled with our home’s “new normal” and the simple touch was easing. I’ll never know but I know it meant something. Something sweet and something special.

 

 

One last interesting dog connection I recently came across comes from none other than the Bible and the story about Lazarus, who demonstrated the consummate level of humiliation during those times as he was covered in sores and scorned by all. Jesus, of course, heals him but not before we read that “dogs came and licked his sores.” Some would suggest that those dogs were the original therapy dogs, including a Dominican Priest who wrote the article I read. I love this idea and something else he wrote: the Latin root words for “Dominican” are “domini” and “canis,” or “dog of the Lord. Makes total sense to me being that GOD and DOG are the same word spelled backwards!

 

 

If you know me you know. I’m a dog person so it only makes sense that one of the closest to my heart philanthropies that I try to support at all costs is “Hounds for Heroes,” which focuses on healing the wounds of war by healing veterans and their families through programs that incorporate the powerful human/canine bond. The multi-faceted and amazing program features service dogs, emotional support dogs, companion dogs, veterans helping fellow veterans, as well as professional service dog trainers and counseling. To watch a successful match develop and unfold is truly phenomenal.

 

Today Barry showed me something phenomenal too…that a dog who is skittish about almost everything knew when he was needed and calmly attended to the need and asked nothing in return. He did what we humans should do every day. I’m pretty sure this dog-eat-dog world would be much better for it.

 

 

Dogs are indeed amazing animals. Here are just a few fun facts about my favorite four-legged animals:

  • Dogs are healers. Simply caring for a dog can reduce anxiety, brighten a mood and reduce stress.
  • One study showed that within 10 minutes of looking into a dog’s eyes or petting a dog, the brain gets neurochemical bursts of oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine and endorphins, all chemicals that make us happy and relax us.
  • Other studies suggest that living with a dog reduces the symptoms and severity of depression and also boosts one’s immune system, reduces blood pressure, and lowers heart rates.
  • A British hospital actually “prescribes” a dog for patients who have suffered heart attacks and has found the chances of a second heart attack in them dropped 400 percent!
  • A study published by “Pediatrics” journal found that children who live with dogs during their first year of life got sick less often than kids from dog-less homes. The research revealed that the dirt and microbes brought in the house by Fido actually bolster helpful bacteria in a child’s immune system.
  • Babies who live with dogs are 31 percent more likely to be in good health than those who don’t, 44 percent less likely to develop ear infections, and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics during their first year of life.
  • Owning a dog is known to help you better maintain an active lifestyle and retain a healthy weight.  Dog owners are said to be both emotionally and physically healthier and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Dogs are said to be able to see things we cannot, as my friend can attest to following the deaths of her mom and dad. Her dog, she says, would look up in their bedroom and stare for minutes as if something or someone was up there. There are many similar reports of dogs doing this.
  • It is said that when a dog sees its owner its brain secretes the same substances ours do when we are in love. In short, your dog is truly in love with you!

 

 

Bird Sightings and Shoulder Taps June 23, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:26 pm

Sitting outside on our back patio the other day I saw a beautiful bright red male cardinal in a tree in our yard. We have lived in our “new” home for four years now, and I can’t think of one time I’ve seen a cardinal. We have lots of birds, squirrels, deer, and even a fox or two but cardinals not so much. I found this somewhat surprising when we moved here, as our last house was home to many a cardinal and it’s not all that far from our current home. So, like I do so well, I thought about it and analyzed what a rare cardinal sighting might mean.

 

 

I’d always heard cardinals represent a loved one who has passed and that when you see one, it means they are visiting you. I found it interesting to learn that they usually show up when you need them or miss them the most. But, I hadn’t recently lost anyone. I did however, have a friend who had just lost a beloved aunt and I immediately reach out to her to share my cardinal sighting story. Still, the “lost love one” theory didn’t personally move me or give me an “aha” moment. Until I read further.

 

Come to find out dear daddy cardinals also make appearances during times of celebration or despair. Bingo. I have been in despair and was in a somewhat disparaging mood as I sat outside that day. Who isn’t in despair right now, right? Nothing has gone on in my personal life or with any family members but our country is currently full of despair and destruction and it’s wearing me down. I’m tired of the news, I’m tired of the posting, and I’m tired of worry and anxiety. I’m. Just. Tired.

 

 

Thankfully, two co-workers and I agreed to meet for an outdoor visit at one of their homes this week. I miss these ladies so much and it was so nice to just catch up and laugh. We sat in my friend’s beautiful backyard and guess what showed up? Countless cardinals! It gave me chills and it made me happy. I felt like maybe, just maybe, they’re actually also good luck charms and the gloom and doom is about to change much like the season had just changed from spring to summer. Finger’s crossed, right?

 

Turns out, it is believed that whoever sees a cardinal will have good luck either at noon, midnight, or within 12 days of the sighting. I’m not sure what would qualify as “good luck” right now in my life, but just learning this cheered me up and gave me a bit of hope.

 

On top of that, spiritually a red cardinal sighting is a message from God who wants your attention and in a positive way. In addition, both cardinals and blood have long been symbols of vitality and in a Christian context, the cardinal is a symbol of life, hope, and restoration.

 

Hope and restoration.  I’m in need of both and I’m paying attention!

 

 

Just yesterday I got a video of hope and encouragement from my director. She sent out an update on what’s going on at work and included a video titled “Shoulder Taps.” In it, a man talks about seeing an elderly woman at a restaurant when a voice inside him tells him to go tell her how pretty she looks. He does so and is floored by what she says. “I know you and I know your spirit,” she tells him. “My husband died a year ago today and that’s something he would have said.” Needless to say, the man was speechless. He thought about it and concluded that God taps us on the shoulder and uses us at just the right moment. Whether we listen and feel those shoulder taps is up to us.

 

 

His story reminded me of a lunch my daughter and I were having many years ago when she was in high school. Sitting in a restaurant we notice a group of what looks like middle-school aged girls. All of them except one are pretty and have the air of “popular girls.” The one who doesn’t looks quiet and nervous. My daughter notices this and remembers suffering at the hand of middle school mean girls herself so as we walk out, she goes up to the table, looks right at the quiet girl and tells her how much she loves her top and how pretty she is. I’m not sure whose faces dropped more: the nervous young girl’s or those of the others sitting with her. Here is a pretty high school girl coming up and complimenting the one girl at the table who probably never got compliments. Shoulder tap? I’m thinking yes.

 

Courtesy Susie Davis

Maybe all those cardinals I’ve been seeing are shoulder taps or as I sometimes call them,“God winks.” I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of anything that can replace the blind hate and unchecked criminality destroying our nation and I’m loving the idea that a simple bird brought with it true hope for restoration and healing. I’m giving it a wing and a prayer.