Beyond Words

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

A Very Brady Blog September 9, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:24 pm


Here’s the story, of a lovely lady…


Got you singing, didn’t I? Those are the opening words to one of the most famous theme songs in history and is, of course, that of “The Brady Bunch,” the iconic 1970’s TV show that this year is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a big HGTV special and reunions galore. This “Brady Bunch” fan could not be happier! Are you with me?



Here’s the Story

Created by Sherwood Schwartz (I even knew his name and when I close my eyes I can see it in the show open), “The Brady Bunch” premiered 50 years ago this month on September 26, 1969 (the same year we landed on the moon and Woodstock was held) and ran until March 8, 1974. It was inspired by a news story about a blended family and Schwartz interviewed more than 260 boys and girls to find his perfect bunch. As for Carol (the lovable Florence Henderson) and Mike, Gene Hackman was actually considered for the role of Mike Brady, but at the time he was an unknown actor so Robert Reed was chosen instead. “The Brady Bunch” was hands-down one of my favorite shows to watch, along with “The Partridge Family,” and I still love it to this day. I wanted so bad to be Marcia Brady and thought she was so cool and so pretty. If I ever meet Maureen McCormick who portrayed her, I think I might even get a little nervous and shout out “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”


Truth be told, the acting wasn’t great and the scripts weren’t very believable, so why was “The Brady Bunch” a success and why is it still one in syndication?



Originally titled “Mine and Yours” by Schwartz, similarities were made between it and two hit movies from the time, “Yours, Mine, and Ours” starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball and “With Six You Get Eggroll” starring Brain Keith (Uncle Bill from another favorite of mine, “Family Affair”) and Doris Day (a forever favorite of mine.) It’s important to note that “Brady Bunch” scripts predated those of both movies.


As corny as it was, you can’t deny the Bradys were groundbreaking. The family was a blended one, consisting of the kids (Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy for those of you living under a rock for the past 50 years) of a widowed dad Mike and the mom he marries, Carol Martin. Funny thing is, it was never revealed whether Carol was a widow or a divorcee. ABC objected to Schwartz’s desire that Carol be a divorcee, so instead her marital status was never revealed. How times have changed.


Add to this the fact that back then Los Angeles and California were both cool and enviable places to live. What young American did not long to pack their bags and move the LA in search of their dreams? Again, how times have changed.


Carol and Mike must have done something right, as the six Brady kids in real life have remained fairly clean compared to many other child stars. You really haven’t heard about Marcia being in rehab, Bobby going to jail, or any of them making headlines. Instead, the six actors have kept working both on screen and off and for the most part, remain fairly normal people. This alone is worth celebrating.


Not everything Brady was perfect though. Case in point: Carol’s heinous hairdo!  I remember thinking it was soooo bad even back then. And how, pray tell, did three girls and three boys share one bathroom? No way, no how. And, did you know a toilet was never shown?


One question I always had was why in the world did Carol Brady need a live-in housekeeper when she didn’t work full-time outside the home? Come to find out that dear, beloved Alice (Ann B. Davis, a name forever engrained in my brain) had actually been Mike’s housekeeper so how sweet of him to include her in his new family. The boy’s dog Tiger also made the cut.



Ironically, the series was never a big critics or ratings winner, but in syndication it’s a huge hit with an episode said to be broadcast somewhere in the U.S. and abroad every day of the year. Schwartz believes part of its original appeal is because it was written from the kids’ point-of-view, not that of the parents. Situations like boy trouble, sibling rivalry, and meeting famous rock stars appealed to the young audience as did the fact that despite short-lived conflicts, the Bradys were a harmonious family that demonstrated respect, honesty, and acceptance. Every character was lovable in some way or another. For Cindy (Susan Olsen), it was that lisp. It was real and Olsen worked with a speech therapist until age 19 and ultimately had it corrected with surgery.


Season one focused on issues any blended family might face: accommodations in newly shared home, resentments toward siblings, and boy/girl rivalries and differences. After that initial season, scripts concentrated more on typical preteen and teenaged issues like puppy love, self-image, and responsibility. Remember when Greg was “grown up” and moved upstairs to his own private room and how furious Marcia was about it?!  Never was anything political brought up however, which is especially laudable given the fact that the Vietnam War was being waged during the series’ run. How wonderful if today’s sitcoms and TV shows would do the same, no?


Nonetheless, sensitive subjects were addressed. In one episode Carol reminds Bobby that the only steps in their house were the ones leading to the second floor. In other words, there were no stepchildren in the Brady household, only children.



The House That TV Built

Now, all these years later, “The Brady Bunch” is taking over TV again. HGTV’s four-episode miniseries, “A Very Brady Renovation,” premieres tonight and is the most anticipated of the many commemorations planned. The series will follow all six Brady kids as they help makeover the LA home that was used for exterior shots of their TV home and turn the inside into what we all remember the Brady house to be.  In it, each cast member is assigned a room to remodel, all the while being helped by HGTV stars Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” as well as stars from “Restored by the Fords,” “Hidden Potential,” “Flea Market Flip,” and “Good Bones.”  I can’t wait and already have the DVR set!



HGTV bought the home last year for nearly $2 million, outbidding many others. The actual house was never used in the making of the original series, with all filming done at Paramount Studios. But, what living and breathing Brady fan does not remember the classic suburban house and its distinct two story exterior?  In one episode Mrs. Brady gave the address of 4222 Clinton Way, but it’s recently been revealed the house is actually on Dilling Street in North Hollywood and tourists drive by it and take selfies 24-7. The fact that this mid-century modern abode is a nostalgic keeper says a lot, as most split-level houses of its kind are today’s tear downs, not fixer-uppers.  Actor Christopher Knight, who played Peter, told “Parade” magazine that he was always shocked at how connected the audience is to the house because they really had no recollection of it because they never worked there.


One thing I didn’t know is that the house was supposedly designed by Mike, an architect. It is said that the house, built in 1959, was selected by Schwartz because he felt it looked like something an architect would live in. Personally, I was always confused that the upstairs in exterior shots looked to be on the left side of the house but the interior stairs seemed to lead to the right. Now I know why.



I loved the Brady’s house. The kitchen was big and had double ovens! It was two-story. Mom and dad always casually sat and visited in the living room and the entry had double doors! The sleeper–style sofas in the den? We still have similar ones at my mom’s.  We call them the Brady Bunch couches. In that same made-for-television den was a painting on the wall of a young what looks like a Native American girl. Our friends growing up had the same exact print! I’m telling you, the Bradys were very special. TV magic. Brady magic.



Much has been revealed about the cast, including the fact that Barry Williams (Greg) and McCormick had their first kiss while filming in Hawaii and that Olsen and Mike Lookinland (Bobby) used to make out in Tiger’s doghouse. The fact that Reed was gay was kept secret by the entire cast until his passing and Olsen and Lookinland have since shared that Reed was more of a father figure to them than their biological dads. Today Williams and Christopher Knight (Peter) remain friends and were at each other’s weddings but sadly, McCormick and Eve Plumb (Jan) didn’t get along during filming and still don’t.


McCormick however developed strong bonds with both Davis and Henderson and they remained close up until the two elders passed.


Perhaps all of this is why it’s so wonderful and why I love that all six actors reunited for the making of anniversary-related events including Brady-focused episodes of “Chopped, “Pioneer Woman” and other Discovery and Food Network shows. I have to believe that Henderson, Reed, and Davis would also be involved if they were still with us today. Reed passed away in 1992 and Henderson, who was born on Valentine’s Day, succumbed to a life-long battle with heart disease in 2016 at the age of 82. Following her years of playing the Brady’s devoted housekeeper, Davis lived a quiet religious life until her death in 2014.


We all had our favorite Brady, but perhaps it was beloved Alice who ranked highest. Alice was indeed a bit odd, but she was spot on when it came to solving family conflicts, being the voice of reason, and cleaning up messes. She was the mainstay of the family and the kids always knew they could count on her as a trusted confident and sounding board. We all need an Alice in our lives, right?



A Tune for the Ages

I started this blog with the first line from the show’s open; an open that will forever live in infamy and is truly a cultural phenomenon. The at the time “high tech” style has been credited with “The Brady Bunch effect” and it was selected by “TV Guide” readers as the eighth best show opener ever. My guess is that as you’re reading this, you’re singing the song and visualizing the faces in the tic-tac-do grid design.


Written by Schwartz and Frank De Vol, it was originally arranged and performed by a group called “Peppermint Trolley Company” but in season two, the Brady kids took over the singing of it. I remember when that happened and thought it was so cool!


I also loved some of their other songs, especially when they sang “Sunshine Day” and “Keep on Dancing” (in those matching blue and white pants and sweaters outfits!) from the episode where they were on “Amateur Hour.” The Brady kids also recorded several albums but none became hits. Oh well, for that we had “The Partridge Family,” right?



The new anniversary events are just part of the popular Brady bank vault.  Sequels and spin-offs have also hit the airwaves, as have an animated series, a variety show, TV movies, and a stage play. Apparently we never get bored with all things Brady.


So that’s the story of a man named Brady and his blended bunch that influenced a generation of fans and continues to do so. I have a hunch we haven’t seen the last of the beloved Bradys. Carol and Mike would be proud.



A Day to Work on Your Attitude and Go Fishing! September 2, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:53 pm


As we celebrate Labor Day today, let’s remember the reason for it: all those who work and labor. Quick history before I move onto today’s blog:


Labor Day pays tribute to American workers and their achievements, sacrifices, and contributions. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a national holiday in 1894. To all you laborers who have today off, enjoy your day and to those who don’t, thank you!


The challenge for many employers and workers will start back up tomorrow as we head back to the office, the store, the plant, the school, and other places of employment. It’s every boss’s dream to have a successful business filled with people who are happy to be there and ironically the needs of an organization and the needs of its workers are often the same: creativity, passion, flexibility, and devotion. But how do we get there? One proven way? Fish! Yep, fish. As in Seattle’s fish mongers.


The fish mongers at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market are famous. Tourists line up to see them in action and locals buy many a cod and salmon from them. It may all look like fun and games from the outside, but their jobs are anything but glamorous. They must hate their jobs and have horrible attitudes, right? Wrong. In fact, their work ethic is among some of the best and if you don’t believe me, I’ve got a book for you. It’s called “Fish!”



Billed as “a proven way to boost morale and improve results,” I first heard about “Fish!” during a staff development training some years back. I was fascinated by the concept it details and always meant to buy the book but never got around to it. Then this summer I took an impromptu trip to Seattle and bought it as my official souvenir. I finished it in one reading.


Since its first printing in 2000, the book has sold more than 5 million copies in 35 languages. It is one of the best-selling books of all time and is used today by executives and trainers across the globe as a way to improve morale, increase production, build trust, and develop teamwork in businesses big and small. So what ‘s the secret?  The “Fish Philosophy,” which has four simple but effective practices: Choose Your Attitude, Play, Make Their Day, and Be There, all of which can be applied at work and in every phase of your life. When applied daily, they help anyone be more energized, effective, and fulfilled. You will also experience a positive change in your relationships and in yourself. In the end, it’s all about shifting things toward the positive and who doesn’t want that?!


But, they aren’t a “to do” list of rules to check off, but rather a way of thinking. The Fish Philosophy is a way, not a day.



In short, the book tells the story of Mary Jane, a big time boss lady whose staff just isn’t happy. She happens upon the Fish Market and is stunned at the sounds of laughter and remarkable energy emitting from an otherwise non-desirable workplace. She befriends fish monger Lonny, trains her staff in his four-step philosophy, and the rest is staff improvement and training history. At first hesitant and skeptical, Mary Jane’s staff reluctantly took part (they had no choice!) but ended up embracing the model and became an amazing, award-winning group. How’d they do it? First, by changing the way they looked at things.





This is the core of the four Fish Philosophy ingredients. Without it, the others won’t happen.  In a nutshell, it comfirms that even though you may not have a choice where you work or the job you have, you have a choice about the way you do your work. Like a fish monger, you can love what you do even if you may not be doing exactly what you love. By accepting the fact that you always have a choice about the attitude you bring to the job, you realize you choose the kind of day you have. So, as long as you are going to work, you might as well make it the best day you can, right?


It sounds simple to understand, but may be a bit difficult to do. For starters, stop with the victim mentality. The “woe is me” attitude is killing this country right now. Pull up your boot straps and grow up. Don’t take things so personal and don’t blame others for your problems. Instead, make the best of it and accentuate the positives, what few there may be.


Yes, we may not have multiple choices where we work or the job we have, but we have everything to do with how we approach that work. If you want to change your culture, change your conversations. If you gripe and complain, make sure your words lead to solutions or accomplishments. Your attitude my friends, has a lot to do with how you are treated and what happens to you. Bring your best qualities to work every day regardless of what is happening around you. Your choice. Choose your attitude!




This second ingredient of the Fish Philosophy may sound frivolous, but it’s anything but. Think about it, happy people are healthier people and happy people treat others well. Creating and allowing opportunities for staff members to play together results in an energy-filled workplace, promotes problem solving, stimulates creativity, decreases turnover, and improves teamwork.


Everyone wants to play on a winning team, right? So what are the traits of winners? They take pride in what they do, they work hard, and they have fun. In this type of workplace, time passes quickly and work becomes a reward rather than just a way to rewards.


Yes, take the business seriously but look for ways to incorporate serious fun too.




This third ingredient is all about is all about making memories for others…good memories. Not only is this good for business, it gives individuals personal satisfaction in knowing they made someone’s day.


Start by asking “what can I do?” and then find creative ways to engage clients and always respectfully include them in your workings. Always be on the lookout for the next opportunity to provide positivity and whatever you do, be fully engaged in your work and be present. This leads us to…




We are a distracted society. Always on our phones and forever so busy. Not good. Not always productive.


Instead, how about being fully present and focused on what others need from you? Look people in the eye; focus on them not on your messages. Show them consideration and truly listen to them. Acknowledge their needs and their accomplishments. Aren’t all of these traits the very ones you in turn want from others? Be the first to demonstrate them.



These are all lessons that build better workplaces but they also build social competence, something so desperately needed in today’s schools, society, and world as a whole. So in the end, if you want to transform your work into your passion or simply crave energy, spirit, and fun, think of Fish! It might not be the end-all solution to all workplace or personal trials and troubles, but if it can work wonders on fish mongers, I’m pretty sure it can work for you and your staff and maybe, just maybe, result in personal and/or organizational transformation. In the end, sometimes in order to change the culture, you have to change yourself. You can choose to change or not. Change is risky, but so is the risk of not changing. Maybe it’s time to go fishing .





Give It a Rest August 24, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:32 pm

You spend more than 100 days a year sleeping and there’s nothing more refreshing than a good night’s sleep, right? Every night I relish climbing into bed and calling it a night but sadly I don’t always get the perfect ZZZZZZs  and I often wake up not so much feeling tired, but not truly rested. Why? What gives? I’ve created a cozy, comfy bed but even that’s not 100 percent full proof. And that’s not good. Or healthy.


Good Night

Research links sleep to a stronger immune system, improved concentration, and an overall better mood according to WW, formerly Weight Watchers. In contrast, getting less than six hours of sleep a night on a repeated basis has been linked to overeating and weight gain. In fact, a person who doesn’t regularly get the recommended amount of proper sleep may eat almost 380 more calories a day more than someone who does. It’s no secret that healthy people make healthier choices but a healthy choice even the healthiest of people often neglect is sleep, and it can cause real nightmares.



Most experts recommend seven-to-nine hours of sleep a day for adults but one in four Americans say they only get four or five hours. I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes falling asleep is hard. I start feeling tired but the minute I jump into my beloved bed my mind races. Of course I also often turn on the TV and check my phone, both of which are big time bedtime no-no’s. Instead, I should read my book and call it a night. Easier said than done, right?


In a recent WW meeting about sleep we talked about ways to set yourself up for wonderful slumber. A three step “cue, calming activity, and reward” system was suggested starting with a nightly cue that it’s time for bed. This could be an alarm, after packing lunch, or at the end of a favorite TV program. You can give yourself 30 minutes or so, but after that it’s time for a calming activity that you do every night before bed. Some people might take a hot bath or shower; others might read or start a meditation or relaxation app. A routine I recently started is eating cherries at night. I recently read that they contain melatonin and after eating such great ones in Seattle over the summer, I’m hooked. In the winter I enjoy a cup of hot chamomile or Sleepy Time tea and I also like to start my bedside diffuser that I fill with a lavender essential oil. Lastly, I like to end the day being grateful for three things that day. All of this is setting the stage for the reward: a good night’s sleep.



This is not a full-proof plan but one that if done regularly, might make a huge difference in your life. We are all stressed out and stress is a bad word when it comes to sleep. Our days are “go, go, go” and then we expect our bodies and minds to magically just shut off and fall deeply to sleep. Not gonna happen and the fact that nearly 60 percent of Americans have trouble sleeping proves this.


This lack of beauty rest is creating ugly results, including decreased job performance and that 55 percent of Americans say they feel more antisocial after a bad night of sleep. Even when we do nod off, we’re waking up an average of two times during the night.


Exercise could be one important piece of the sleep puzzle as it plays a key role in how well we rest. Think about it: more exercise usually results in more and better sleep and if you sleep well you are rested and energized, which means you’re more apt to want to exercise.



The Bed of Your Dreams

So now that you’re thinking about your bedtime routine, let’s look a bit at your physical bed and figure out what makes a one five-star hotel worthy and the bed of your dreams. Surprisingly, it’s not so much about the actual bed, but rather the bedding. And it’s all about the layers.


The perfect bed consists of sheets, a duvet or other topper, a coverlet or other throw blanket, mattress cover, mattress pad, and an abundance of fluffy pillows. Let’s start with the sheets.


I’m a bamboo sheets girl. I love them. I love their softness and their feel.  Others, like you perhaps, prefer a crisper cotton sheet. There are also microfiber, flannel, sateen, and a host of other fabrics used for sheets. In this case, it’s important to know your weaves.


Sateen means silky, smooth bedding while a percale has a light, crisp feeling. Poly-cotton blends and polyester styles like rayon or Tencel  will wrinkle less but they are less breathable than 100 percent cotton, which is the best choice if you tend to get hot at night. In this case, look for natural and soft premium cottons like Pima or Egyptian. For warmth, you might consider flannel sheets and if you want a stretchy knit that feels like you’re sleeping in your favorite T-shirt, jersey sheets have your name on them. Finally, is it true that satin pillowcases are better for your face and hair? Actually, yes.



Silk is made by silkworms and is woven into fabrics like satin, a fabric weave made of silk and other fibers like polyester. Satin doesn’t absorb a lot, so it won’t soak in your night creams or rob your hair and skin of their natural oils. On the other hand, silk and cotton are highly absorbent but both polyester satin silk pillowcases and natural silk pillowcases may provide reduced friction, meaning fewer split ends and diminished wrinkles as your skin is not being pulled and tugged at night. Lastly, satin feels cool to the touch while silk warms up with body heat.


“Thread count” seems to be what everyone considers but what exactly does that mean? Generally speaking, fabrics with higher thread counts are made from finer threads, resulting in a softer, smoother feel. For most, 300-420 count is considered the best. Most experts say any higher thread count means thinner and weaker threads and higher doesn’t make a difference. What does make a difference is ironing cotton sheets. No, I don’t do so but yes, I’ve heard it makes the sheets crisper and enhanced. Just one more reason to stick to my bamboo babies.


Whatever sheets you choose, choose to invest in good ones. Yes, you can find sheets at bargain basement prices, but they aren’t going to hold up and will most likely (gasp!) ball and fray. Always wash your sheets in cool water, as hot water wears down the fibers faster.




What goes on top of those sheets is up to you. I love a good down comforter and pretty duvet as well as comforters, but others (like my mom) still like bedspreads and there are always quilts. If you suffer from allergies to goose or duck down there are alternatives but true down holds its shape better than polyester fiberfill, which tends to clump and stiffen up.  Even during the heat of a Texas summer, I still want something on top of my sheets. It’s something about the weight of it all. I also like a fluffy down mattress pad on top of my memory foam mattress.


Now onto pillows. There is nothing like a comfy pile of pillows on a luxurious hotel bed. They always seem just right, fluffy but supportive, but duplicating the look is not always easy.  For starters, consider four pillows, two of which could be square “Euro” pillows alongside two standard ones. There are lots of pillow choices, ranging from my preferred down filled ones to traditional foam versions and even “My Pillows.” Which, by the way we have. I like them, but I don’t love them. Sorry Mike Lindell.


Whatever pillow style you choose, consider how important they are to a good night’s rest and how much time you spend on them. Buy new ones regularly and don’t be afraid to spend money on the purchase. It’s money well-spent.


One last bedding tip: January is the best time to invest in new sheets, pillows, blankets, and the like, as annual “White Sales” offer deep discounts on most items.



Sleep Tight

Now for mattresses. Like bedding, there are many choices and options. If you don’t believe me, drive around and chances are you’ll pass multiple mattress stores. Why are there so many and why is entering one so blasted intimidating? Don’t be afraid, and instead keep these “Consumer Reports” tips in mind.


There are basically two major types of beds: foam and innerspring. Foam softens when you lie down and molds to your body. Sleep partners can move around without affecting the other one and once you get up, it springs back to its original shape. Think Temper-Pedic and other memory foam versions. Innerspring are what traditional “old school” mattresses are made of but the more coils does not necessarily mean a better mattress. More important are what those coils are made of and other manufacturing processes.


Unless you know exactly what you want, it’s always best to buy a mattress that you can see and actually lay down on. Yes, lay down on those mattresses…for at least five or 10 minutes…and do so on your side, back, and stomach. Wear lose clothes when mattress shopping as well as shoes you can easily slip off. Don’t be bullied into making a quick decision and don’t be bullied into buying a box spring. You may not need one (be sure to check warranty requirements) and keep in mind that many memory foam manufacturers recommend platform or slatted wood foundations. And rule of thumb: replace your bed if it feels lumpy, you wake up sore, and for sure once it’s more than 10 years old.


I can’t talk about beds without mentioning water beds, those odd but popular 1970s and 1980s beds. Silly as they may sound today, they were actually very comfortable and great for your joints. You just needed to hope they didn’t leak or bust and the weight of them required second thoughts of having them on anything but the first floor.


Today we instead have “adjustable air” beds like Select Comfort’s Sleep Number beds. Users can select firmness and elevation levels of their side of the bed, making them great for couples who have distinctly different sleep patterns and styles.



And speaking of sleep styles, studies show that your sleep habits say something about your personality.  If you sleep on your back you’re probably an introvert and an early riser while side sleepers are often extroverts and night owls. (I’m a side sleeper and both of those are scary accurate!) Are you a stomach sleeper? Then you’re most likely a combo of both and something called an ambivert. Some studies report that sleeping on your back is healthiest for your spine, neck, shoulders and skin. In addition, what side of the bed you sleep on is also revealing. If you sleep on the left side of the bed you are more likely to prefer oldies music, drama films, and beer over wine. Those who sleep on the right side of the bed like rock music, action flicks, and wine.


Side sleeper or belly dozer, it’s all about making your bed and sleep area a special place. Your goal should be to make your entire bedroom a sanctuary of peace and comfort, complete with table lamps, live plants, and an overall sense of calm in hopes of a good night’s sleep and waking up rested and ready to take on the world.


Sweet dreams everyone!




Are You For Real? June 25, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:54 pm


Something disturbing happened in the food industry last week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration moved to allow genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. The salmon, , whose DNA is altered and “enhanced” to speed up growth, are the first genetically modified animals of any kind approved for human consumption in the U.S.  Needless to say, the ruling raised eyebrows and brought on calls for greater caution from consumer advocacy groups. None of the salmon has been sold stateside as of yet and it’s predicted to show up first in restaurants, but what scares me the most is that it will be up to those restaurants to determine whether they want to let their customers know about what many are dubbing “frankenfish.” And I’m no vegan or health food nut.


To me, it’s all about “but is it real?” Are those salmon still “real” or are they somewhat “fake” now? Manufacturers say they are indeed real as the fish could theoretically be produced through conventional breeding. What’s changed is they can now be injected with DNA from other fish to make them grow twice as fast. But is it all through natural methods or fake techniques?



If you ask my daughter what I hate, she will say “phony, sneaky, and braggy.” A beloved salmon produced by somewhat phony means does not make me happy. I love salmon and I’ll never forget seeing them battle their little hearts out upstream in Alaska, endearing them to me even more. To think of them injected with something does not sit well with me.


Nothing fake does.


Is That a Real Rolex?

Those salmon work hard for their livelihood and I work hard for what I have. I’ll come clean though in that years ago I went to more than one trending “purse parties” where you could walk out with a Gucci or Louis Vuitton for a fraction of the cost. Problem was, they weren’t real. Thinking back, I’m ashamed I did that and am glad the trend ran its course.



Sadly, that trend is now online. Simply Google “fake Hermes” and a host of sites and options will pop up. There are even Facebook groups and apps that deal in counterfeit goods. Not only do these sites make buying fakes easy, they’ve brought a level of anonymity to the process. It can’t feel good pretending you’re something or someone you’re not and hoping and praying someone doesn’t ask you about your fake purse. But thanks to the internet, you no longer have to worry that Sally next door knows your double G belt is a fake cuz she bought the same one at that purse party you went to. Your secret is now safe with only millions of online users.




Fake is Fake

Although it’s not illegal to buy a counterfeit item, it’s at the very least a questionable choice and if you turn around and sell that item without honestly sourcing it, you could face legal issues. And if you should buy those poser purses overseas, take care claiming them in U.S. Customs.


But seriously, if you won’t buy fake food or imitation anything, why is buying a fake Neverfull okay? A lot again goes back to social media. We are inundated with celebrities sporting their red-soled Louboutins and $20,000 Birkin bags on Instagram, but if you are sadly obsessed with their million dollar lifestyles but don’t have a million dollar budget, you may turn to the dreaded F word: FAKE. It seems we all want to keep up with the Kardashians but don’t have the cash to do so. The market for designer everything continues to grow and so does the market for counterfeit goods.


Risky Business

Perhaps Aileen Luib of said it best when she wrote, “I’m not trying to pass judgement on people who buy fakes, but I want to shed light on the sinister business that is the counterfeit industry and how its proceeds fund organized crime, terrorism, and human trafficking.” She goes on to add that purchasing a fake bag or watch may seem guiltless and victimless, but it’s very likely someone is suffering at the expense of your label and logo vanity and the money you saved.


It really benefits no one. Wearing something counterfeit can only leave one feeling counterfeit themself. Your self-pride and confidence cannot be bolstered and any sense of authenticity has got to fly out the door.


So where does all that counterfeit goods profit go and how are they produced so inexpensively? Sales from the counterfeit underworld have been documented to support organized crime, gang warfare, and terrorism, including the purchase of actual guns used in attacks, and human trafficking and child labor keep costs low. Is carrying that phony Chanel to dinner really worth supporting these causes? Think about it. Sleep on it.


I remember reading the book, “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” years ago and I recently read an article by its author, Dana Thomas on In it she remembers walking into a Thailand assembly plant and seeing little children, all under 10-years-old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags. The owners had broken the children’s legs and tied the lower one to the thigh so the bones wouldn’t mend. These wounded, abused children my friends, and are the victims of your knockoff purchases. Maybe it’s time to knock it off.



Pirated and counterfeit goods are both a social and economic problem and are hurting our economy. Those who make fakes don’t pay taxes, meaning the cities we live in and the schools our kids go to lose money and none of the goods are regulated by the government. It’s estimated that more than 750,000 American jobs are lost due to the knockoff industry and think about it, if someone is going to buy a fake, they are more than likely never going to buy the authentic piece, meaning the value of originals may decrease and the all-important scarcity of them becomes a a thing of the past. As writer Kamila Hankiewicz wrote, “Counterfeiting ends up damaging the very industry it tries to copy.”


There’s also the issue of whether one knows they’re buying a fake or if they are being faked out. Telling the difference between real and bogus is getting harder and harder. I hate the fact that someone might think they’re buying the real thing but are getting unknowingly ripped off, but I also hate the idea that someone knowingly buys something fake, especially again and again. Fakes are rarely high quality, but one ingredient they all share is deception. Either the buyer is deceived or those who see you sporting one are deceived. If fashion in and of itself is a form of self-expression and style, what are you expressing in a pair of fake Manolos or wrapped in a fake Burberry scarf?


Faking You Out

Thomas also writes that at one time, 90 percent of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior items offered on EBay were fakes. Ninety percent! And just last year Amazon stopped 3 billion suspicious counterfeit goods listings from hitting its website. So bad is the trend that many consider it an economic, social, and moral epidemic.




Then there’s the new van method of selling fakes. Feeling no longer safe in storefronts that might be raided, counterfeiters now keep their stock in vans, allowing them to race off in a moment’s notice should authorities show up. Really? Who in the world wants to buy anything from the back of a van? Sadly, as long as there is a demand for cheap imitations, there will always be an abundant supply of them.


If it’s the designer look you want so bad, consider dupes. Do what?


Hey Dupe

Through retailers like Forever 21 and Zara, consumers can purchase items that have the features and design elements of coveted high-end brands but without the logos and price tags. They are an accepted replacement of fakes and knockoffs and are even okay with some designers, including Olivier Rousteing of Balmain. For example, look at the two shoes below. One is Valentino’s popular Rockstud slingback and the other is from Sole Society. Without seeing the name on the inside sole, could you really tell the difference?



So by purchasing the Sole Society pair of pumps, you not only get perfectly adorable and stylish shoes, you also don’t have to worry about supporting the black market or lying about “who are you wearing?”




Counterfeit Checks and Balances

Again though, it’s not just fake designer shoes and bags infiltrating the market. Fake Nike sneakers and Yeti coolers are hot items, as are electronics and jewelry. That Rolex watch you’re eyeing online? Check the source. Better yet, buy it at a reputable retailer.


As I mentioned at the top of this blog, salmon is now making headlines, but Thomas reports everything from baby formula to medicine is counterfeited. It’s believed nearly 70 percent of extra virgin olive oil is actually virgin oil and to ensure you’re getting real cinnamon, buy it fresh and unground from a trusted source that lists harvest dates and then grind it yourself at home. As for honey, buy only single origin versions and if you’re picky about your coffee and black pepper, choose only whole bean versions of both. The list goes on and on and doesn’t stop in the kitchen.



Counterfeit cosmetics and perfume are also abundant and the FBI at one time issued a consumer alert for fake cosmetics, most of which are made with carcinogens in unsanitary labs and may contain dangerous levels of bacteria. Valerie Salembier of “Don’t Buy Fakes” asks “would you consider spraying urine on your neck or arsenic on your lips? That’s what you could be doing if you buy impostor beauty goods.” That GAO report mentioned above? It found that all Urban Decay products it tested (tested by them, not all offered online or elsewhere) were fake.


Some may say “imitation is the best form of flattery” but it’s also true that copies are never as good as originals. Counterfeit goods are often low quality and in some cases even unsafe. How safe can that electronic device be considering it didn’t go through any safety checks and as Hankiewicz asks, “would you buy Viagra if you knew it’s not legit?”



So what can one do? Here are some tips:


  • Only buy fragrances and cosmetics from the brand’s website, a major department store or drug chain, or an authorized dealer. This should be your standard for any high-end brand purchase as well, whether it be a purse or bedsheets.


  • Know the standard price of what you’re buying and keep in mind that if the bargain price you find is too good to be true, what you’re buying is probably is probably not. A bag that retails for $2,500 is offered for $150 is most likely not real.


  • If you’re hell bent on avoiding the brand’s store or other tried and true reputable retailer, do your research. Visit a store and get familiar with the item you’re considering by looking at it not just online but in your own two hands. Feel the leather. Check the seams and hardware. Know what the real deal feels and looks like.


  • Check the item’s details. Pay extra attention to things like zippers, snaps, and closures. Is the stitching straight? Do edges and patterns match up? Are there traces of glue? (the seams of designer bags are rarely glued). Is the logo exact and not altered even slightly? Counterfeiters are known to make Gucci’s double Gs backwards, Ralph Lauren’s polo player mallet-less, and Lacoste’s crocodile facing left, rather than the standard right. Know your brand’s logo to a tee.


  • Look for signature marks like LV’s stamped serial numbers or Prada’s exclusive zipper choices. If you’re in the market for a certain item, research their brand signatures and hallmarks. If an item doesn’t have them, don’t buy it. Many sites also boast an item comes with attached original tags but always question who attached those tags and know that designers such as Chanel, Goyard, and Hermes never attach tags to their bags.


  • Make sure the item you’re buying is actually that brand’s item. Counterfeiters often place one designer’s logo on another brand’s design. Know that what you’re looking at is actually a product offered by that designer.


Happy and honest shopping everyone!






By the Book June 20, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:14 pm



My name is Carla and I’m a bookaholic. Yep, I admit it. I have an addiction to books. I’ve always said when I go into a bookstore it’s like I’m wearing a Velcro suit and books just somehow stick to me. I can go in for one book and come out with three. Case in point: yesterday.


There’s a fabulous new independtly women-owned bookstore in town and I finally went to it with my sister who is in from out-of-town. I’d been wanting to by my all-time favorite book (more on that later) for a friend and was thrilled that they had one in stock. One more chance to support a local business and one avoided opportunity to purchase it at a national chain or online amazon-sized business. I should have walked out right then and there but of course I browsed. Browsed right to another book for my ever-growing pile of “to read next” stack as well as an adorable book motif coffee mug. So totally me…coffee and books. And let’s get this straight right here right now: I’m talking real books; covers, pages, and all.



Last week I was listening to one of Susie Davis’ fabulous podcasts during which she visited with Bailey Greenlees as they talked about mentoring.  As with anything and everything Davis does, the podcast was both fascinating and inspiring. I was especially struck by Greenlees talking about what someone’s favorite childhood book was and what that book says about them. Hmmmmm I thought, very interesting!


I got to thinking and I got to wondering: what was my favorite childhood book? Two immediately came to mind: “The Little Lame Prince” and Nancy Drew Mysteries series. I particularly remember “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase,” “The Secret of the Old Clock,” “The Mystery at Lilac Inn,” and “Mystery at the Ski Jump.” But what do these say about me?



I’m pretty sure “The Little Lame Prince was my first favorite “real” book that wasn’t a beloved Golden Book. Closing my eyes I can vividly see the cover and I still own a copy of it. If I glance to my left as I write this, there it sits on my bookshelf, right next to “Charlotte’s Web” and “Heidi,” two of my other favorites.


But it was the prince, a paralyzed young boy who is magically given the ability to travel through a cloak given to him by a Fairy Godmother, who stole my heart and my imagination. Through the cloak, he could see but not touch the world as he went on many adventures all the while developing wisdom and empathy along the way. He ultimately become a wise and compassionate ruler of a land all his own. Originally written in 1875, it is believed that through this book, author Dinah Maria Mulock Craik hoped to stimulate positive feelings in her readers as well as encourage socially correct actions regardless of the circumstances one finds themselves in.



So what does this say about young Carla who loved this book? My guess is young Carla frequently felt out of place and longed to be accepted and she yearned for adventure and unconditional love. She must have found it in a little book about a little prince.


Young Carla’s fascination with Nancy Drew is, on the other hand, a mystery. I don’t remember liking mysteries and I still don’t, but maybe she liked the idea of a strong, independent woman who made her way and her own rules. Maybe she liked the name Nancy. I’m thinking she also liked the idea of an orderly collection of works.


I still love children’s literature and books, and storytime is one of my favorite time of the school day in my preschool class. I adore anything Winnie the Pooh and “Little Bear” along with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Napping House,” “Good Night Gorilla,” “Is Your Mamma a Llama?” and “The Night Tree.” One of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project,” is a sworn lover of children’s and adult literature, which makes me happy. Among our common faves are Judy Blume’s groundbreaking “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret,” as well as the classics “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Mary Poppins.”



It all makes total sense to me, as books are where one can both learn and escape. Young Carla loved words and she loved to fantasize about what could be.


Discerning this in my adult head fascinates me so I took it all a step further and thought about what book made an impact on teenage Carla. Undoubtedly that would be “Go Ask Alice,” written in 1971. The fictional book was written in diary form by “Anonymous” and took readers through a teenage girl’s drug addiction and self-destruction. I remember being horrified yet fascinated by its powerful message about the dangers of drug abuse and I’m not alone, as it has been in print ever since and still resonates with many.


Being that I read “Go Ask Alice” during the 1970s, perhaps I was acutely aware of the wide-scale drug use, be it marijuana, LSD, or cocaine, of the wild and crazy 1960s and disco-themed 1970s. Whatever the reason, it all hit home with 16-year-old Carla.


My worn but loved paperback copy of “Gift from the Sea” and a recent edition of it.


As for my favorite book of all time mentioned earlier, it is Anne Murrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea.” A former boss gave it to me some 30 years ago and said I had to read it. I did and I loved it. I love it to this day and give it to friends all the time. Lindberg was Charles’ wife and in between the chaos of her life, she’d go to the sea to find peace. The sea is that of Florida’s Captiva Island, which coincidentally is where we went on our honeymoon.


Written in 1955, the book consists of chapters in which Lindberg details seashells and relates them to her life and the lives of mid-20th century women. I have read it many times since it was given to me and each time the shells mean something different and powerful depending on where I was in my life at the time. I recently pulled it off my bookshelf to read it again. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend doing so. Then read it again, and again.


Other books that have touched me include “Traveling with Pomegranates” by “The Secret Live of Bees” author Sue Monk Kidd, “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich,” “The Day the World Came to Town” by Jim Defede, Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, Susie Davis’ “Unafraid,” “10% Happier” by Dan Harris,  and “In Order to Live” by Yeonmi Park. Looking at these I see a real non-fiction trend, but I think I already knew that.


Coffee table books are also something I’m obsessed with. You can find them everywhere in my home as I feel they not only make for good reading and inspiration, but great decor as well! I recently sat in on a podcast recording with Susie Davis and author Kennesha Buycks for her fabulous new book “Restoration House.” Thinking I was going to hear all about yet another book telling you how to spend lots of money on the prettiest and most coveted pieces of furniture, art, and decor, I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that Buycks recommends anything but. Instead, she writes about how your home should embrace your story, not the stories others think you should tell and that we should embrace the idea of our home not so much being good-looking but life-bringing. It’s all about walking away from the “perfect” house and instead embracing what “goes beyond merely the aesthetic and focus on creating soulful, restorative aspects of home.” Rediscovering a sense of calm and renewal of purpose, she writes, and creating places where we feel secure and revived not impressed or stressed should be our goal. It is hands down the best home design and decor book I’ve seen and I highly recommend it.



Today while eating lunch with my sister we talked about books and “your favorite spiritual book” came up. For some reason I had a hard time with this. I’ve read so very many but pinpointing a favorite proved challenging. My sister immediately said “Hinds Feet in High Places,” which I too like but I took more time to decide on a favorite. The Bible and “Jesus Calling” of course come to mind and I loved Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper” as well as many on Mother Mary, including Beverly Donofrio’s “Looking for Mary” and “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (I am a total Martha!) by Joanna Weaver. But perhaps those that made a true long-term impact on my life were Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of a Praying Parent” and “The Power of a Praying Wife.” Not Catholic for this cradle Catholic, but inspiring nonetheless.


So there you have it, Carla by the book. What was your favorite childhood book? Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about a spiritual or inspirational book? It’s all fascinating to me and I have every intention of reading up on it even more. I might even buy a book on it.








The Mother of All Flowers Blog May 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:33 pm

Inspired Room


Mother’s Day is exactly one week away and one of the most popular ways to honor mom is by giving or sending her flowers. The holiday is second only to Valentine’s Day when it comes to floral purchases and according to the Society of American Florists, one-fourth of all flowers made for holidays come at Mother’s Day. A whopping 84 percent of American adults will celebrate mom next Sunday and spending is expected to reach a record $25 billion according to the National Retail Federation.


Most of those purchases – $2 billion dollars a year – are for flowers. Approximately 58 percent of them go to moms, 28 percent are bought for wives, and 17 percent are given to mothers-in-law. A study by FTD Florist showed that 20 percent of husbands also give their wives flowers on Mother’s Day as a way of saying “thank you” for all they do.




The first official Mother’s Day was May 9, 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May a national holiday in honor of moms. It all came about thanks to a woman named Anna Jarvis who ironically was never a mother herself. Following her mom’s death in 1905, Jarvis came up with the idea of honoring the sacrifices moms make for their children and families. She worked with the Philadelphia department store Wanamaker on ways to honor moms and in May of 1908 thousands attended a Mother’s Day event at one of the retailer’s stores and Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a church in West Virginia. Jarvis later criticized the commercialization of the holiday and by the time of her death in 1948, she had disavowed the holiday all together.


You see, Jarvis’ version of Mother’s Day was to wear a white carnation as a symbol of your love and respect for your mom, to visit your mom, and attend church. Jarvis’ mom loved carnations and Jarvis herself worked in the floral industry at one point to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile.


Celebrations of mom and motherhood go even further back then that though. Ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele and much later the Christian festival called “Mothering Sunday” gained popularity and was a major tradition in the UK and other parts of Europe. Originally held on the fourth Sunday in Lent and seen as a time for the faithful to return to their “mother church,” through the years it morphed into a more secular holiday and remains so today for the most part.


Pottery Barn


Visiting your mom is getting more and more difficult for many, considering today’s transit society in comparison to that of Jarvis’ time, but you can send flowers, go to church, and call her. More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year, with phone traffic spiking by as much as 37 percent.


So how will you be celebrating and honoring your mom or moms next Sunday? Some of us will be thinking of dear mothers who have gone before us while others will be sending flowers. (For my husband and me this will be a bittersweet year, as it will be the first that we don’t send something to his mom who recently passed away.) But just which flower should you choose?


Roses are often the “go to” choice, but did you know different flowers have different meanings? Maybe there’s one just perfect for your mom.


Carnations. Considered the “real” and historic flower of Mother’s Day, these simple and sturdy blooms signify a mother’s love, purity, faith, love, beauty, and charity with pink ones carrying the most significance on Mother’s Day. Legend has it that they first appeared on earth following the Virgin Mary’s tears shed over Jesus’ death, making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love.


Roses. Associated with love, gratitude, and passion, these traditional flowers also have a Marian symbolism through Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, Mary appeared to young Juan Diego and instructed him to go to the Bishop and build a church. The Bishop refused to believe the young boy and asked for a sign of the Virgin’s authenticity. She instructed Juan Diego to go to the top of a hill and gather all the roses he could find and place them in his cloak, or tilma, and bring them to her. Upon doing so, Mary rearranged the roses in the cloak and instructed the boy to take them to the Bishop. Upon opening the tilma, the Bishop saw not roses but a colorful image of Blessed Mary on the fabric. He believed and a church was built. The actual tilma with the image remains perfectly preserved today and is on display at The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.


Yellow roses are also popular and are said to symbolize friendship. And, contrary to popular belief, the famous “Yellow Rose of Texas” song wasn’t written for a flower but a woman named Emily Morgan, whose activities during the Texas revolution made her legendary. Some people also consider the yellow blooms on a cactus to be the true yellow rose.



White roses are associated with purity and brightness and were Princess Diana’s favorite. She was often photographed carrying them and to honor her, Meghan Markle included them in her bouquet when she married Diana’s son Harry last year in St. George’s Chapel , which was filled with the fragrant blooms. A temporary garden called the “White Garden” was also opened at Kensington Palace to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Diana’s tragic death.


The Princess of Wales naturally had a variety of roses named after her and joined the famous and infamous alike. Dolly Parton, Princess Grace, Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and even Reba McEntire (a red rose of course!) have roses named after them as do many, many others. This is not an easy process however, and can actually take up to 10 year and be a bit thorny. To name a rose after someone, you must obtain permission from the individual or their estate and register the plant with the International Registration Authority for Roses. Amazingly, The American Rose Society lists more than 25,000 varieties.



Orchids. The stunning but somewhat hard to grow beauties (at least for me!) represent love, beauty, and strength. The orchid is also a Chinese symbol for “many children,” making them the perfect Mother’s Day gift.


Tulips. I’ve always loved tulips. My bridal party carried them in our wedding and they are traditionally the flower my mom sends me. They say tulips are perfect for someone who is light-hearted and easy-going and represent comfort, coziness, confidence, affection, and happiness. Yellow tulips symbolize sunshine, white ones represent heaven and purity, and pink ones mean affection and caring.


Lilies. While my girls carried tulips in our wedding, I carried long-stem white Calla Lilies and one bright red anthurium for color. Calla Lilies represent beauty and a white lily connotes purity and majesty. Lilies come in a number of colors and varieties and are especially beautiful in mixed bouquets. A Chinese symbol for motherhood, the Day Lilly is perfect for Mother’s Day.


Daisies. White daisies are probably my favorite flowers, along with Easter Lilies, because they are so simple and so cheerful. Traditional white or yellow daisies symbolize loyal love while the bright Gerbera variety represents optimism, innocence, purity, and beauty.


Draper James/Southern Living


Hydrangeas. Perhaps the official flower of the south, these puffy and large blooms symbolize honesty, gratitude, and understanding. They are perfect for expressing gratitude and making amends.


Peonies. A favorite of so many women I know, peonies represent honor and compassion. By giving someone peonies, it is said you are telling them you honor them.


But maybe color is what you’re considering. If so, here’s what different colors of flowers represent:


Pink – innocence, unconditional love, thoughtfulness, and gentleness

Red – deep love and passion

White – purity, truth, and perfection

Yellow – trust, compassion, and respect

Purple – grace and elegance


Another fun option is to pick a flower based on birthday, as illustrated here:


Whatever you’re going to get your mom, make plans now if you haven’t already.  Roses are indeed often red, but a forgotten mom is much like a violet: blue. Don’t forget mom and happy early Mother’s Day to moms everywhere.





A Mentor By Any Other Name April 27, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:52 pm


Mentor. It’s a word you hear thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? Are they teachers? Leaders? Yes and yes, and in a way, mentors are really superheroes.


“Mentor” can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it is an experienced and trusted advisor. Synonyms would be confidant, counselor, consultant, even therapist. When used as a verb, mentor means to advise or train someone, especially a younger colleague.  So there’s that.



I was listening to a podcast by Susie Davis this week (if you haven’t discovered Susie, I highly recommend doing so) on mentors and it got me thinking: who are my mentors; both currently and previously? For some, this might be an easy question but for me it took some time to really conclude who my true mentors have been.


I decided to break down my mentors by what they’ve mentored me in, whether it be spiritually, professionally, or  personally. Let’s start with spiritually.



I’m a cradle Catholic, so I’d have to say my initial spiritual mentor would have to be my mom, who raised me Catholic and still prays her rosary every day. Still, I grew up memorizing prayers and going to mass, but it wasn’t until college that I truly grew spiritually in a personal way.


This Catholic from the mountains of Santa Fe arrived at the University of Oklahoma and listened intently as roomies talked about bible studies. They had worn out bibles on their nightstands! Growing up, our family bible always remained in a box on a living room table…complete with gold-edged pages and a red leather cover…but was never opened and read. The girls also called themselves “Christian.” I remember thinking, “Am I Christian?” You see, in Santa Fe, you were basically either Catholic or Jewish…the word “Christian” was never really used. “Born again” and “Accepting Jesus as my Savior” (don’t we do that every day I thought) had never entered my mind and were only phrases I’d heard TV evangelists say as they took people’s money. My fellow Sooners ultimately opened my mind that the bible is meant to be read, that you could still be cool and be Christian, and talking about God and Jesus with friends was normal and good. I guess you could say they were my first mentors to introduce me to a whole new world of spirituality.


In a way, they were my first true mentors as I really didn’t have any childhood mentors (other then my parents) and I can’t think off the top of my head any teachers that I would consider a mentor. I guess if you’re going to have mentors, they might as well be spiritual ones, right?


Years later I found my grown up self in a wonderful bible study after I was married and our daughter was a baby. The ladies in the study, which we called “LIPS” for “Ladies in Prayer and Service,” taught me more than I’d ever known about the bible, spirituality, and prayer. From them I learned even more about Catholicism but also “talk to God” prayer. Like I said, I’d always been one to recite memorized prayers, but to just talk to God was eye opening. I loved it and am forever grateful to those powerful and prayerful spiritual mentors in my life.


Since then I’ve had one other bible study, and they too mentored me and inspired me with their grace and wisdom. A much smaller group then LIPS, what I loved about this circle of mentors was that we varied so much in age and stage of life. Listening to others whose lives are much different than yours is one sure way to be mentored and learn. This is also the case with my sister Patti and brother-in-law Frank. He is a Catholic deacon and she has devoted her life to prayer and worship. Together, they’ve quietly and remotely mentored me in what it means to follow God and His word. They are my ongoing mentor go-to’s whenever I have a religious question or issue.



On a personal level, mentors have included many friends who are still in my life as well as those who have come in and out of my life, serving the purpose they were meant to serve at the time. I try to surround myself with people I can learn from and I’ve learned so much from so many.


Professionally on a personal level, I’ve previously been blessed with a wonderful therapist named Stacie, who guided me through battles and struggles, all the while making me stronger and more confident. I’m a firm believer in therapy and even though Stacie moved out-of-state many years ago, I still sometimes refer back to my notes from my sessions with her and deep down I know she is merely a Skype away.


I’ve also been “mentored” by my husband and daughter although perhaps not in the traditional way. My husband has taught me to be accepting of flaws and weaknesses, stop overthinking and worrying, release the need to plan everything all the time, and avoid debt at all costs. Our daughter has so brilliantly demonstrated the art of dealing with one’s adversities and overcoming them with a vengeance, being a good and loyal friend, and fighting for what you believe in. Both of them have also taught this introvert to be more social and outgoing. It’s a struggle, but I’m trying!



Daughter of course means motherhood. Oh boy do we all need mentors for that, right? First and foremost my mentor for that was my sister Coral. She taught me so much about the many do’s and don’ts of raising our daughter when Kristen was little and to this day (our daughter is now 25…almost 26) I both use and recommend much of what I learned from her. Although we are not as close as we once were, her motherhood mentorship is something I will always cherish.



This brings us to professional mentors. The first one that comes to mind for me was a TV news producer I worked for right out of college named Mary Ann. A tough New York City girl, she took me under her wing, bought me my first brief case, and taught me so very much about the news industry. If I could hug her right now, I would. I also worked with a news reporter named Karen who perhaps didn’t mentor me in the classic sense, but she showed the young me what it meant to be a true journalist, was an amazing writer, and always showed respect to me even in my rookie role as an editor. Had I stayed in the news business, she would have been my role model mentor. I ultimately left journalism (thanks mostly to a boss who was anything but a good and decent mentor), and was so fortunate to be thrown in the lap of several bright women who taught me all about the flip side of reporting the news: publicity, promotions, and media relations. It was a whole new world to me but one Lori, Norah, Kathy, and Cathy taught me all about with both humor and eloquence.


After I made the decision to leave full-time employment to raise our daughter (thank you mentors for that suggestion!), I found myself teaching preschool at our church. I went in thinking I wanted to be an assistant to several classrooms but begrudgingly agreed to do so in just one class with just one teacher. She turned out to be a true God send and was just the mentor I needed to lead me in this new path I’d found. Christine was perfect. She was fun, witty, smart, and a seasoned and damn good teacher. Much of what I do today in my class is what I learned from her.



What I love about most of these mentors I’ve talked about is that many of them may not even know how much they influenced and inspired me. Maybe that’s what a real mentor does though: quietly lead and guide with no expectations of praise or adulation.


I’ve also been quietly motivated by something old school, books, and something current, the internet. A long-time lover of books (and yes I still buy the real deals), I have learned everything from spirituality, meditation, simplicity, and decor from many an author. Online, I’m daily inspired by blogs I follow and emails I receive on prayer, style, and aging gracefully. These might not qualify as true “mentors,” but if you learn from them and are stimulated by them, go for it.



The flip side of all this is being a mentor, which is often much harder but also something you may not even realize you are doing. Think about it, how you behave and perform at work influences coworkers. How you behave personally influences your children. If you work, lead, and live with integrity you are pretty much good to go. From there, take it a step further and maybe get out of your comfort zone and actually mentor someone.


I’ll wrap it up with none other than Susie Davis. The epitome of joyful despite an imperfect life, Susie has taught me to be unafraid, be beautifully content, and to enjoy my one beautiful life. I am forever grateful to her and the many mentors in my life and hope that someday someone out there will think of me as a mentor as well. In the meantime, I’ll continue to live the best life I know how and to lead by example. If I mentor someone along the way, yay me!


Who are your mentors?