Beyond Words

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

Star Light, Star Bright October 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:12 pm


Last night my husband and I were sitting outside and were amazed at how many stars were lighting up the sky. We could very clearly see Mars and the Little Dipper. It was so peaceful and so beautiful. It reminded me of one of my favorite trips: a visit to the McDonald Observatory in the middle of nowhere Texas. During one of their uber-popular Star Nights, friends and I sat under the pitch black west Texas sky and watched as astronomers pointed out everything above. It was truly one of the coolest things I’ve done.


Do you ever sit outside and marvel at stars in the night sky?


As fate would have it, I go to check my emails this morning and a daily inspirational blog was about stars and the childhood favorite “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” It all got me thinking about the origins of that song, stars in the sky, stars in scripture, and who we consider stars in our lives.


First a little dilly dilly about twinkle twinkle. Many a legend has it that “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” was composed by none other than Mozart, but as wonderful as that tale would be, it’s a tall one and not true. The popular lullaby was actually first published in a collection of poems called “Rhymes for the Nursery” in 1806 and was written by English author Jane Taylor. The Mozart mix up came because the couplet is sung to the tune of variations of works published in 1785 called “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,” of which some Mozart piano compositions may or may not have been included.


Call me silly, but I never realized the music from “Twinkle Twinkle” is the same music used on the ABCs song and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.”  It’s usually just the first four lines of the poem that we all know: “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky,” but there are actually four additional stanzas, some of which talk about lighting up the dark blue sky and guiding travelers in the dark.



Throughout history humanity has used stars as navigational tools, rockets scientists long to get close to the stars, astronomers study the stars, and throughout the bible stars in the heavens are abundantly mentioned. God created the stars in the Book of Genesis, they were used to describe how many descendants Abraham would have, the Star of Bethlehem led the Three Kings to the Christ Child at Christmas, and stars represent angels in the Book of Revelation. In Philippians 2:15-16,  we are instructed to “shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”


In addition, a star, specifically the Star of David, is a symbol associated with Judaism for centuries. For the Jewish faithful, the six sided star symbolizes that God rules over the universe and protects us from all six directions: north, south, east, west, up, and down with the middle.



It’s all pretty powerful when you think about it. God created all those stars and can count every single one, and yet still longs for us to shine His light here on Earth. How can we shine like little stars and share the light so we can make a difference in the world; a world that is starving for true light right now? It’s simple; we can live like Jesus did.



Amazingly Jesus’ ministry on earth was really only about three years long and yet He accomplished more than anyone else ever has. You could say He was the first “one name” celebrity…waaaaay before the likes of Kobe, Cleopatra, Cher, Elvis, and even Shakespeare. He’s also the most famous person in history according to a recent survey that ranked the names of famous individuals using a specially developed algorithm that scoured the Internet. Jesus topped the list. Amen!




Perhaps what’s most impressive is that Jesus could care less about becoming famous, an almost foreign concept in today’s fame obsessed society. We seem to all either want to be famous or are fascinated by those who are. Jesus, on the other hand, never sought fame and fame was not His goal. Much like today’s paparazzi and mobs of fans, crowds gathered wherever Jesus went and whenever He spoke and yet when they tried to make Him a King, he retreated and walked away. Can you imagine anyone doing that today? No way, no how.



So maybe that should be our goal. Focus more on spreading the light rather than being the light. Shine but keep looking up. Twinkle but stay grounded. And never ever stop believing that your light is bright enough to make a difference and that you too can shine like a diamond in the sky.







Nailed It October 2, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:44 am

The Palms Spa-Aveda


My daughter was in town for a visit last weekend and other than doing a little shopping and a whole lot of watching college football, we really didn’t have any plans so what’s a mom and daughter to do? Get a mani-pedi of course!


I have my favorite nail salon that I go to regularly but it’s nowhere near where we were going to be so we did what so many other mani-pedi customers do: we walked in to a random salon. It was very nice and we were happy with the results, but while sitting in the pedicure chair I couldn’t help but wonder something I’m assuming so many other mani-pedi customers do: why are so many salons owned and staffed by predominantly Asian workers? I got on it and I have the answer and it may surprise you as much as it surprised me. In fact, I had no idea!


Actress Tippi Hedren with manicurist trainees


It’s a story that could come straight out of Hollywood and in fact, it did. Forty some years ago actress Tippi Hedren visited a Vietnamese refugee camp in California and had an “aha moment.” Those of you from the “Greatest Generation” will remember Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” movie. You who are closer to my age will be familiar with Hendren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, and all you Millennials out there are probably fans of her “Fifty Shades of Gray” granddaughter, Dakota Johnson. So yes, the Hollywood tie-in runs deep. But I digress…


Back to the refugee camp. Hedren and company visited the tent city where women who had recently fled the communist takeover of South Vietnam were living in hopes of helping them find work in the U.S. While there, Hedren took note that they all loved her perfectly polished and manicure fingernails and before they could say “pick color,” Hedren had them trained in manicure services. Years later, a nail empire was created.


I guess you could say Hedren most definitely “nailed it” and today we can all thank her for it.



Another interesting tidbit I’ve learned is that a French manicure is anything but French. I love that First Lady Melania Trump sported a lovely French manicure when she and President Trump greeted their French counterparts, but really the only thing French about the look is the name. And like the Tippi Hedren story, this one too hails back to Hollywood.


Classic French manicure


In the mid-1970s Orly nail polish founder Jeff Pink was asked by a film director to create a nail look that would coordinate with any costumes, last long, and alleviate the need for actresses to constantly spend valuable time touching them up. Pink was inspired by the system of using a white pencil to highlight the top of a nail and came up with the idea of actually painting the top side white. He called it “The Natural Nail Kit” and it was an instant hit with movie stars.


The only thing French about a French manicure is the name.


Some years down the road, Pink took the trend to the Paris catwalks and it was a hit there too. He knew he needed a catchy name however, and chose to keep it simple with “French.” Although a tad misleading, the name was brilliant in that anything with a French name or label automatically conjures up chicness and sophistication. It’s a name that has lasted and a style that remains popular to this day.


Baby Boomer Nails


As with any trend however, French manicures are considered by anyone but traditionalists a bit old fashioned and a tad cheesy (I still like them) so of course there’s a new take on the old classic and it’s quite a hit. The latest manicure trend is nothing flashy (although nail art, stiletto shaped nails, and matte polishes are also popular) and even has a trending name: Baby Boomer Nails. Did someone say boomer?


Also known as French Ombre or French Fade, the look basically takes a traditional French manicure but blends the white/pink/clear coats together to create a gradient or ombre effect. Some says it’s a throwback back to manicure styles popular after World War II, hence the name “Baby Boomer Nails.” The style is especially popular with brides and is all the rage worldwide, with some salons saying it’s their most requested style although on the whole, color is still the preferred choice by nail clients.


Baby Boomer Nails can be created with both acrylics and gel polishes, which are two of the most popular nail salon choices along with “dip” nails. What’s the difference you ask? Not a whole lot yet a whole lot.



In a nutshell, if you like to change colors often you should opt for plain ole’ nail polish, which you can remove easily at home if need be. If you prefer a long-wearing choice and don’t mind having to visit a salon ever 2-3 weeks for acetate soaking and scraping removal, gel is the way to go. If you have short or weak nails and long for long ones, acrylics are your only option. And new flash ladies, whichever method you choose – gel manicures, nail extensions, or dip powders – know that all contain acrylic in some way. Yep, whether they are glued on, cured under a lamp, or applied with powder and liquid, they are all acrylic based.


Whichever method you choose – gel manicures, nail extensions, or dip powders –  all are acrylic-based.


I prefer gel polish, which you’ll also hear sometimes incorrectly called “Shellac.” Turns out the name “shellac” is an actual brand of gel nail polishes. Think “Band-Aid” or “Advil.” I learned this from my friend and Scottsdale manicurist extraordinaire Kelly who also taught me that true gel nail polishes require drying under either an LED or UV lamp. Heads up ladies. This means any “gel” polish you buy at a store that doesn’t require a drying lamp isn’t a true gel polish. The upside to gel manicures is that they last nearly three weeks but their downsides are the pesky removal of them and concerns about UV light exposure. My advice is to take an SPF of 30 or higher with you to your appointment and apply it after you wash your hands and also maybe look for salons that use LED lights instead of UV lamps.



Acrylic nails are tried and true ways of getting those lengthy nails you’ve always wanted but weren’t born with. Basically they are fake nails that are applied to the tips of your nails and then your nail beds are filled with liquid monomer and powder polymer, which harden and then are filed into your bed. These are the nails you see being applied by a nail technician often wearing a surgical mask and using what look like dental tools. Acrylics will grow out as your natural nails grow out so you will need to get the nail beds “filled” with more powder as nail growth becomes more and more obvious.


Powder dips or “SNS” manicures are yet another option. SNS is actually short for Signature Nail Systems, which has been around for years. This style of manicure is the one you see when the client’s finger tips are dipped in small little jars of colored powder. They may look a lot different from acrylics, but what you are getting is basically acrylic in powder form that is bonded using a glue containing the main ingredient in Krazy Glue. But, you don’t have to worry about potential UV lamp damage.




What all of this adds up to is big business according to The nail industry is an $8 billion mega-enterprise and an estimated nearly half of all nail salons in the U.S. are Vietnamese owned or run. These manicurists, who earn an average of around $650 a week, have jumped on a niche that allows them to earn a stable living using their entrepreneurial spirit and well-known attention to detail. What’s amazing is that showing your feet to someone in Southeast Asia may be considered offensive and feet are not particularly appreciated in Vietnam. There are nail salons in Vietnam but even there you’ll rarely see the salon owner doing pedicures, much like the case here in the states.


The busiest day in the average nail salon is Thursday.


Virtually all nail technicians are female (97%) and a quarter of them have worked in their current salon for more than 10 years. Nearly half of them have some level of college education and just over half are married. If you’re looking for a quiet day at the salon, don’t go on a Thursday, which is the busiest day of the week followed by Fridays and Saturdays.


In addition to generally being a little less pricey then American-owned salons, Vietnamese salons are also mostly walk-in businesses. They will take appointments, but most clients are like me in that unlike a hair appointment, when I feel I need a mani-pedi, I simply drive to the salon and more often than not have little or no wait for services.



I’m an admitted mani-pedi fan and get them regularly. I do have my go-to salon and choose them because they literally massage your legs for 20 minutes or so. Granted, I need to allow nearly two hours for an appointment, but I don’t get lash extensions or sprayed-on tans so mani-pedis are my only regular personal grooming maintenance other than hair. I always get a gel manicure because I’m blessed with strong nails so I never need acrylics and I love that gel polishes last so long. What colors I choose vary according to my mood and the time of year. I’m always up for some sparkle and glitter, tend to lean more toward neutrals, but will occasionally go a little wild with a color. I prefer having my fingernails tended to while I sit in a pedicure chair, as I find the manicure table chairs either uncomfortable or awkward. Is it just me?


I used to polish my own nails and have very fond memories of my sisters and me doing so at our kitchen table when I was growing up and anytime we were back home. Now however, gel is the only way I go…but only on my fingers. On my toes I’m strictly standard polish and I’m not a fan of the French look on toes. Sometimes I opt for no polish, cut my nails down, and let them breathe polish-free for a few weeks and in the winter I tend to get fewer pedicures.



Along with various polish choices and methods, nail shapes can vary too. I prefer oval but “squared oval” and “stiletto” seem to be the most popular shapes today. I can’t pull of the stiletto shape and somehow square of any kind bothers me when I type, write, cook, etc.


So there you have it, everything you’ve always wanted to know about nail salons but didn’t know who to ask. I can’t help you understand what salon staff members might be saying in their native language but I can tell you to pick color, relax, sit back, and enjoy the luxury that is getting your nails done.




The Language of Fans September 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:26 pm


I recently went to my niece’s wedding, and part of the weekend festivities was an Afternoon Tea for the bride, her wedding party, and female family members and close friends. It was a lovely time and the venue also included an adorable gift shop filled with tea sets, tea towels, tea strainers, and all the fixings for a fabulous tea party. One item that stood out to me was an old-fashioned print out detailing “The Language of Fans.” Apparently how you use a fan, where you use a fan, and what hand you hold it in all mean something different. It all piqued my interest because not only do I like history and interesting information, I like fans. And not just the kind that root for my favorite teams!


I’m talking hand-held fans and I have two that I treasure: one that I got in Spain when I visited my sister who lived there and one that my niece (the very one who hosted the bridal tea party!) brought me from Japan, where she lived for many years. Often associated with both Spanish flamenco dancers and Japanese geisha dancers, fans are much more than simple accessories and have a long and interesting history.



To start with, there are basically two versions of the hand-held fan: the folding type and the rigid style. Both date back centuries, with ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans all being depicted using fans. Some say the use of fans can be traced as far back as 4,000 years in Egypt, where they were considered  sacred instruments and were used in religious ceremonies. Interestingly enough, two fans were found in King Tut’s tomb and fans are mentioned in the bible




From there it gets kinda hazy. Both Japan and China stake claim of inventing the modern day fan and both countries have valid points and history. What is agreed upon is that the folding fan, modeled after the folding wings of a bat, came from Japan while the “fixed” or rigid version was developed in China. It wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty that folding fans were introduced in China.



Originally fans were intended for practical reasons like swatting away insects, shielding a lady’s face from the sun or fire, and cooling one off. They were first used by the middle class, who didn’t have staff to fan them or take on household tasks using fans. Both folded and rigid fans became popular imports in 1500s Europe as trade routes opened up, and quickly become exotic and stylish symbols of wealth and class, even falling into the “expensive toys” category. It didn’t take long for well-healed women to soon be seen carrying an assortment of hand-held fans, which were often decorated with jewels and feathers and hanging from the skirts of even Queen Elizabeth I. They eventually were considered works of art and created by specialized craftsman, many hand painted on luxurious silk.



This was not the case across the ocean in America though, where the fan had much more humble origins. Fans stateside were rarely jewel-encrusted or hand-painted. Instead, they were often produced and mended by the likes of Shakers and made from straw or paper.



In today’s Japan, the folding fan remains very important in Japanese society and culture; even in that of sumo wrestling. A traditional fan is made from washi paper while fans made of silk are considered the most precious. A fan symbolizes prosperity through its opening up and its single starting point and wooden strips going out from it resemble the various paths leading us through life after the single point of birth.


The color of and pictures on a fan are also full of meaning. A pair of birds symbolize a loving couple, bamboo and pine represent patience, a lion symbolizes strength, a koi carp represents luck and a long life, plum blossoms represent a new beginning, while cherry blossoms represent the love of parents as well as richness and good luck. Typically fans will consist of an odd number of pictures, as odd numbers are considered lucky.  Gold colored fans are believed to attract wealth while red and white ones are considered to bring luck.




In Spain, fans go hand-in-hand, both literally and figuratively, with classic flamenco dancing.  It’s believed that both the fans and shawls used in flamenco originally came from China and Japan but Spaniards have made them uniquely their own through their passionate dance.  Popular products coming through Portugal through trade routes, it didn’t take long for fans to become sought after items, especially by those in Southern Spain where the weather is hot and flamenco originated.


Flamenco is considered a very seductive dance that incorporates emotion, grace, and style in a performance full of power and passion. If you’ve never seen a live flamenco performance, I highly recommend doing so.





Brides have jumped on board the fan wagon and fans are making their way down wedding aisles in many forms. One way is to provide folded versions for outdoor wedding guests while another option is a more rigid version complete with wedding party or wedding schedules printed on them. Still another option, although one that’s a bit gaudy for my taste, is to incorporate fans in a bridal or bridesmaid bouquet.




The fashion world has of course not missed the boat on this one, with many a fashion house incorporating fans on their runways and splashing their logos on fans of all fashions.  So in style are fans, that Rihanna is often photographed with one in hand and designer versions were given to front row VIPS at last year’s Dior Couture show, of course emblazoned with the design house name and logo.


Ironically it was Dior’s very own Paris where Jean-Pierre Duvelleroy launched his fan house in 1827. The well-known French fan maker and leather goods manufacturer is one of the rare French fan makers still in existence today and he is credited with introducing the notion of “fan language” to his fans. Some say it was just a marketing ploy by him and other manufacturers to sell fans, but I personally like the concept; a concept that has never been fully debunked.


In the courts of early England and Spain, it was said that fans were used in, yes, a secret and unspoken language of sorts. These hand messages were clever in that they allowed a woman the ability to cope with stifling and restrictive social etiquettes. And according to a recent exhibit on the history of fans at Purdue University, Joseph Addison, publisher of “The Spectator” in the early 1700s, is credited with opening an academy for women to be trained in the use and handling of a fan, saying “women are armed with fans as men with swords and sometimes do more execution with them.” Amen sistas!


So, what exactly was this secret language? It was all printed out on that piece I saw at my niece’s tea and what got me started on this whole fan appreciation blog. Here then is “The Language of Fans.” True or not, I’m a fan.


With handle to lips: kiss me

Placing it on left ear: you have changed

Fanning slowly: I am married

Fanning Fast: I am engaged

Drawing across cheek: I love you

Open wide: wait for me

Dropping fan: we are friends

Drawing across forehead: we are watched

Carrying in right hand: you are too willing

Carrying in left hand: desirous of acquaintance

Drawing though hand: I hate you

Drawing across eyes: I am sorry

Twirling in left hand: I wish to get rid of you

Twirling in right hand: I love another

In right hand in front of face: follow me

Closing fan: I wish to speak to you

Letting it rest on right cheek: yes

Letting it rest on left cheek: no




The Apple of My Eye August 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:56 pm


It’s back to school time, which means school supplies, carpools, and apples for the teacher. But why apples?  The tradition might be as American as apple pie, but where did it start? Not in America but in 1700s Denmark and Sweden. Back then education wasn’t government funded so families who couldn’t afford paying for school would give their children’s’ teachers baskets of apples and potatoes as payment. Not sure why potatoes didn’t stick with school and teachers, but that would be a bit like comparing apples and oranges.


The education-themed red fruit also has several biblical ties. We all know about Adam and Eve and their eating of the forbidden fruit and how one bad apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch of humanity, but did you know the common saying “the apple of his eye” comes from the bible? The phrase appears in four books of The Old Testament: Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, and Lamentations, with my favorites being “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,” from the Psalms and “Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye” from Proverbs.


But, what does this really mean?



Biblical scholars say what we utter as “apple” in these scriptures translates literally to “pupil.” In other words, see God and stay focused on His commandments. In ancient times, the pupil was believed to be a round, solid object comparable to an apple. Since it is essential to vision, a pupil was considered very precious so when you called someone “the apple of your eye” you were letting them know they were treasured and special. This could have probably also developed from the Anglo-Saxon word “arppel,” which means both “apple and “pupil.”


One of my favorite blogs, “Our Daily Bread,” takes it even a bit interestingly further by saying God is like an eyelid in that He encircles and guards the pupil and the eye as a whole. The eyelid protects the eye from danger, keeps it healthy, and allows it to rest. All of this God does for us if we let Him. In some ways, every time we blink or go to sleep we can think of God and thank Him for guiding us and protecting us. Eye love it!


Yet another bible-apple tie-in is none other than the Adam’s apple. That “bump” on a man’s neck is the result of puberty and changes in growth, particularly the larynx, also called the voice box. In males, the front of the thyroid cartilage that surrounds the larynx tends to protrude outward. Its name came about from an old wives’ tale that after Adam ate a piece of the forbidden fruit in The Garden of Eden, a piece got stuck in his throat and caused a bump. In reality, an Adam’s apple has nothing to do with the food one eats and doesn’t serve any medical function. The larynx however, does in that it protects your vocal chords.



Coincidentally, an apple is also one of the healthiest things you can eat. They are loaded with fiber and are known to fight Alzheimer’s, prevent colon cancer, stabilize blood sugar, prevent high blood pressure, reduce appetite, fend off heart disease, and fight high cholesterol. Eaten whole, they can also alleviate constipation and in applesauce form, are part of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) Diet used by moms everywhere to alleviate diarrhea.


When choosing apples, opt for smaller ones as large apples ripen faster and may not be the freshest ones in the produce section. What you’re making with or doing with an apple will also determine which one you choose. Most experts recommend buying organic apples as they are often high in pesticides, but whatever kind you buy, always wash an apple before eating one. And, if you’re looking to slice them and put them in your kids’ lunches, store them in the fridge in cold water and add a little bit of salt to keep them fresh and keep them from yellowing and getting rotten to the core.



Flavor-wise, most people have their favorites. I prefer a sweet apple so I generally look for Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, or Jonagold. If tart is more your style, Granny Smiths rank highest, followed by Macintosh, Rome, and Empire. Smack dab in the middle are Cameo, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Braeburn, and Pink Lady. Here’s a snapshot of all things apple:


  • Braeburn: Firm, tangy, juicy, and crisp. Great for baking, eating, and making sauces.
  • Cameo: Sweet and a bit spicy. Great in pies and all-purpose cooking.
  • Fuji: Crisp, juicy, and very sweet. Great for baking and in salads.
  • Gala: Sweet, juicy, and crisp. Not a good choice for baking but great for making cider.
  • Golden Delicious: Sweet, mellow, and semi-firm. Good for all-purpose cooking and eating.
  • Granny Smith: Tart, juicy, and very crunchy. Best for pies and baking.
  • Honeycrisp: Tart with a slight sweetness and crisp. Best for salads.
  • Jonagold: Slighty sweet and a little tart. Not a good choice for baking.
  • McIntosh: Tart, crisp, and tangy. Best in pies, salads, applesauce, and fresh eating.
  • Red Delicious: Sweet, tender, and juicy. Best in salads and fresh eating.
  • Rome: Firm and mildly tart. Best for baking whole and for cider.


The best season to buy apples is when school starts: in the fall. Of course it is, right? Apples are considered “winter fruits” and it’s those fruits that also have only moderate amounts of sugar. They are rich in fiber and are one of the lowest-glycemic fruits you can choose, charting much better than bananas and grapes.  Granny Smiths have the lowest amount of sugar, which explains their tartier taste.



All apples…red, yellow, green, sweet, or tart…all have something in common though: a star. Yep, if cut apple in half across its “equator,” you will see a star in the middle of each half. Kids love this!


I’ll leave you, my little apples of my blogging eye, with one more apple tidbit. We’ve all heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but where did it originate and is it true?


The common proverb is of Welsh origin and was first recorded in the 1860s. The original wording was “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread” and today’s wording originated at the end of the 19th century. But, is it accurate?


As we learned above, apples are indeed healthy, but a 2015 study looked at the relationship between eating apples and doctor visits and found no evidence that apples do indeed keep the doctor away. Still, they just might keep many an illness away and will probably make a teacher happy and grateful. You might even get an A for apple for doing so.



Set Goals with a Back to School Mindset August 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:10 am


Kids all over are heading back to school and “Back to School” is the theme in stores, homes, and all over social media. As an empty nester, I no longer have a back to school time in my house, but I have many friends who do and my preschool teacher job puts me smack dab in the mode. All of this got me thinking about an article I read sometime back about how actress and fitness junkie Alison Sweeney kick-starts her fitness routine each fall when her kids return to school by implementing some back to school ideas. I hunted and researched and found it thanks to Redbook.


Sweeney’s focus is fitness and exercise, but you really could use her method to achieve almost anything. Want to save money or learn a new skill? Maybe you’d like to perfect a hobby or play a sport. All you need to do according to Sweeney’s philosophy is stick to a curriculum, do your research, and study hard. Just like school, right?


Sounds easy, but Sweeney cautions and says to remind yourself that whether you’re hoping to lose five pounds or qualify for a marathon, you won’t get there overnight. Students aren’t expected to ace a test their first week or know everything off the bat, so you need to give yourself a break too. Start slow, reduce expectations, set goals, and learn ways to get where you want to be. You might want to read proven ways and study tried and true methods.



Start with your own “first day” by incorporating something teachers use to get their students motivated and in tune with what’s expected of them: a syllabus. Remember those? Projects, tests, and important dates and information are always included in these written down and handed out semester snapshots. They are basically a plan and just as they keep students on track, writing down your plan will keep you on track. Pick a start date and a goal date and then go to work.  I recently started Weight Watchers and this is one of their trademarks. On Day 1 you pick a goal weight. Writing things down is also known to alleviate stress and puts your objective upfront and out front. I’m also doing something I saw online called a Plank Challenge. Each day for four weeks you do a plank, starting with 20 seconds and increasing the length of time each day or every other day. It’s all written down and I check off each day’s interval.



Another thing Sweeney suggests is getting help when you need it. Students get tutors or work with friends on projects and test prep. Walk with a friend, get a personal trainer, hire a nutritionist, join a gym, take lessons, or hire a coach. My Weight Watchers meetings achieve this goal in many ways. They of course hold me accountable, but they also offer a support system and provide a leader who serves and chief encourager and inspiration.



Something students have to face that you and I don’t are quizzes and tests. But tests are good in that they track progress and show where one needs improvement, so consider “testing” yourself by implementing mini challenges here and there. I’d like to task myself to start walking more but the weather has been so hot and I’m not one to enjoy a treadmill. Still, I’m challenging myself to figure it out and just do it in an effort to add cardio to my weekly yoga classes. Maybe you could give up sodas for a week, vow to eat more fruits, practice your piano lessons once-a-day for a week, or save more money this month than last. Whatever you choose, be sure to reward yourself with an A+ when you pass that test!


By following this creative and could-be fun approach, you might just reach your goals and graduate with honors! Best of luck to you and all the kiddos headed back to school.









Clean Up On Aisle 5: Paintings With a New Perspective August 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:18 pm


Tis the season for “back to school” shopping and you can bet your back-to-school bottom dollar that much of that shopping will be done in Walmarts across the country. Walmart is, of course, the biggest retailer in the universe but did you know it’s also the subject of fabulous art?


American artist extraordinaire Brendan O’Connell is sometimes referred to as “The Walmart Artist,” but his gifts and vision go way beyond the bread aisle. Still, it’s those aisles of American staples that put him on the map and launched a career of depicting art in the most unlikely of places. Attention Walmart shoppers: you could be the subject of a high-dollar painting!


O’Connell earned degrees in both Philosophy and Spanish and after graduating he moved to Paris to teach languages. While there, he taught himself to draw and eventually quit his “day job” to take on art full-time. Meanwhile back in the states, Walmart was experiencing its heyday and rapid expansion. Little did O’Connell know that American commercialism would influence his work and his life in such a dramatic and colorful way.



Long influenced by artist Edward Hopper and his calculated Americana renderings, O’Connell returned home with the goal of sketching a slice of American life in its rarest form, unfiltered, and as he saw it. His first choice was retail outlets and their windows of America’s obsession with mass-marketed merchandise, which naturally led him to Walmart. He was fascinated by it all: the colors, the rows of products, the shoppers, the lights, and the fact that under one giant roof it all unfolded in enormity and excess.


“It’s the most visited interior space on the planet,” he says. “From an artist’s perception, the idea of dressing this environment is exciting.”


So, O’Connell set out across the country and began painting rows of goods and aisles of shoppers even though he’d often get kicked out by store managers. But, after profiles on NPR, in “The New Yorker,” and on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Walmart execs contacted him and told him they liked what he was doing and wanted to make it easier for him to continue doing so. The rest, as they say, is history and if you ask me, artistic genius on such a human level.



He says it’s simply finding beauty or significance in what are often otherwise throw-away moments. O’Connell revels in finding and depicting our place in the realm of consumption as well as society’s fetish with products. I love how he morphs otherwise starkly lit and uninteresting aisles into colorful and whimsical canvas creations. And although the retail giant is loathed by probably as many as it is cherished, O’Connell ‘s hopes his paintings will one day not only be considered a clever and brilliant artistic venture into a mundane environment, but something sentimental as well.


“Someday people may feel nostalgic about something they were terrified of, so what if we elevate the everyday moment into an act of beauty or piece of art?” he asks.


O’Connell’s work has since been elevated in exhibits in New York, Toronto, Shanghai, and a host of other cities. He also has permanent collections at the GA Museum in Athens and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. He has been commissioned by a number of companies including Walmart. Today O’Connell has built quite a repertoire that includes his signature works, and he is also the founder of Everyartist, a non-profit with the goal of promoting art among children. What better place to do this than in Walmart with a box of Crayola crayons and some colored pencils? Funny how things sometimes come full circle and make you wonder, right?



As for me, the next time I’m in a Walmart I’ll try to picture the aisles through his eyes: eyes of inspiration and imagination. Maybe while you’re doing your back-to-school shopping, you can give it a try too.



Walmart Facts

O’Connell calls Walmarts “whole cities of goods under one roof,” and many are indeed bigger than many towns and cities when you consider sales, profits, and products. Amazing, right? So are these other “fun facts” about Walmart:


Walmart is the largest private or semi-public employer in the world, with more than 2.3 million employees worldwide, which is more than the population of Houston.


In fiscal year 2015, sales were $482 billion, which is more than Iran’s GDP.


If Walmart were a country, it would be at least the 26th largest economy in the world.


The mega-retailer employs 1.5 million people in the U.S. alone.


One of every four dollars Americans spend on groceries is spent at Walmart.


90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart.


Walmart averages a profit of $1.8 million an hour.


37 million people shop at Walmart every day, which is more than the population of Canada.


Walmart is bigger than Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, Costco, and K-Mart combined.


Each week, Walmart serves more than 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries.

Bananas are Walmart’s top selling items.


Walmart accounts for 25 percent of Clorox sales.


If Walmart’s more than 900 million square feet of retail space were spread out over one place, it would take up roughly 34 square miles or about 1.5 times the size of Manhattan.


Walmart parking lots alone take up an area roughly the size of Tampa, Florida.


The most frequent destination typed into GPS device Telenav is Walmart.









Nobody’s Perfect August 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:19 pm


I try to have few regrets in life, but a glaring one I have is not going to visit my niece when she lived in Japan. She lived and worked there for years and married a Japanese man but they now live in the U.S. so I’ve somewhat missed my chance. Fingers crossed I can someday travel with them when they go visit his family.


In the meantime, I’ll remain a bit intrigued by Japanese culture and since I’m also a bit OCD, what better culture to be fascinated with then one that is known for being precise, polite, and proper? Take their food for instance.



In Japan, food is immaculately prepared and packaged because it must not only taste good, it must look good. Think of sushi and how stunning each little roll is and how beautiful it is plated when presented right. So perfect must food be in Japan that there is a $90 million industry devoted to replica food and those “good enough to eat” dishes one sees in a market or restaurant are often actually artificial food. Weird, right, but as a tourist faced with menus you can’t read, eating out can be a challenge in Japan. Through the magic of life-like food samples though, ordering can be as easy as pointing to what you want.


As with anything, there is also a downside. Food products with even the smallest defects are often thrown out. But, in a society not big on being wasteful or careless, this is changing. In recent years, “wakeari” products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese and these imperfect food items are now being used “for a reason” rather then tossed. Wakeari can also describe someone who is not perfect, which got me thinking, isn’t perfect overrated?



I’m raising my hand because I just got back from the orthodontist as I’m considering Invisalign. I’ve had perfect teeth (seriously and never had braces) my whole life but in recent years they have started to shift, especially my two front teeth. I’ve become very self-conscious of them and find myself not wanting to smile big. I know, great, but did you know one out of four people in orthodontic treatment are adults? Again, great.


So, after two of my closest friends bit the Invisalign bullet, I thought I’d give it look. Each doctor told me doing so is not purely cosmetic because at the rate I’m going, implants are nearly a guarantee at some point. After two consultations I’m still deciding if it’s something I really want to invest in in search of perfect teeth.





Perfection is not easily attained by any stretch of the matter. Tom Brady lost a Super Bowl this year. Jennifer Aniston has relationship woes. Oprah struggles with her weight. The so-called perfect presidential candidate lost. Not only is it hard to be perfect, it’s impossible. No one is perfect. Okay, maybe Mary Poppins but even she’s not real. Try as you may to be the perfect parent, perfect friend, or perfect worker, you will ultimately fail. You can also try to have the perfect body and face, but at what expense, both figuratively and financially? But Carla, what about all those perfect people we see on TV and on social media? Trust me, they are not perfect either. Case in point:




Make-up, glam squads, and cosmetic surgery can do wonders, but when all is said and done it’s all really not the real you or them. Fake lips and boobs? People know it. Tons of make-up? It’s for sure covering tons of flaws. Instead, why can’t we strive to accept our imperfections and know that even though we are imperfect, we are loved?


The Perfect Storm

Perfectionism is described as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly harsh self-criticism, both of which can lead to psychological difficulties. Perfectionists are often coveted in the workplace, but truth be told, unrealistic expectations of yourself and others may occasionally lead to success, but may also result in high levels of stress, substance abuse, and self-doubt. Perfection and satisfaction rarely go hand-in-hand. Finding the balance is the key. Yes, work hard, have goals, and strive to be the best, just make sure those goals are tangible, realistic, and constructive.



In his “The Case Against Perfection” article in The Atlantic and subsequent book, Harvard’s Michael Sandel examines genetic engineering. His concern is that being able to “control” nature coupled with our incessant urge to improve our lot in life may ultimately lead to trouble. He specifically names issues like steroids in sports and choosing a baby’s sex along with other enhancements he says “diminish our human dignity.” Along these paths, our notions of good and bad change, as does our idea of perfection. We stop celebrating nature and instead want to mess with it.


If you find yourself striving for perfection, you are not alone, especially if you’re in a younger age group. A recent study by the University of Bath and York St John University analyzed data from more than 40,000 British, Canadian and American university students from 1989 to 2017 and found that the obsession with perfection amongst this age group has risen more 30 per cent over the last 30 years. I’m looking at you Millennials. These young adults are also 33 percent more likely to believe their environment is excessively demanding and that others judge them harshly. Of no coincidence is the fact that these are those who have grown up in the social media age so it should come as no surprise that their imposing of unrealistic standards on those around them and evaluating others critically has increased by 16 per cent.


Scary, right?


Finding the Perfect Balance

As the fabulous movie “Finding Your Feet” asked, “How do you expect to take control of your life when you’re so obsessed with the lives of others? It’s time to step back and say “Yay me, imperfections and all.”




How about we focus more on what’s inside then what’s outside? We’ve all heard the saying that a pretty face can’t hide an ugly heart so why don’t we believe that? How about we strive for progress not perfection? Scruples not scalpels and principles not pretty? News flash: perfect people aren’t real and real people aren’t perfect.



I know, it’s hard though. But think about it, how many of your friends and family do you really and truly consider “perfect?” Probably not a whole lot but my guess is you love them just the same. And you admire and respect them. That perhaps is the key: respect. We all need to do a better job of respecting ourselves while accepting ourselves because once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you. Not bullies, not social media sites, not anyone.



Do you have a specific talent or gift that gives you joy and that you enjoy sharing with others? Those are the things that, even though you might not do perfectly, make you perfectly awesome and imperfectly amazing. You can also step back and take a look at your life. What is it made up of that you hoped and prayed for previously? When and what is enough enough and what are you really looking for? If it’s perfection, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.


I know of what I write. My name is Carla and I’m a perfectionist. I want to be the perfect writer and want the perfect teeth again. I also want the perfect house and to be the perfect wife and mother. I’m open to you helping me load the dishwasher but odds are I’ll rearrange the entire thing before pressing that “start” button. At the same time, I’m accepting. I accept that my life isn’t perfect but it’s blessed. I also accept that I’ll never be a size 2 but am currently in the process of losing weight and I love my yoga class. As with possible teeth straightening, I do this all for me and not to be perfect, but to feel good, to feel healthier, and to feel better.  I’m well aware that I am far from perfect and that none of what I do will make me perfect, but they will improve me in all the right ways while making me healthy, balanced, flexible, confident, and centered. As long as I’m not an old lady who is stiff, can’t physically do things, and have dentures, I’ll be happy and satisfied. I might even say, “that’s perfect!”




So let’s all step back and evaluate our expectations and realize that even though we are all flawed…and I mean we’re all flawed…we are still beautiful and worthy. Perfect, right?