Beyond Words

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

Friends in Co-rona Places April 22, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:46 pm

So we’ve all seen quotes and memes like the one above suggesting that when the COVID Crisis is said and done, we honestly consider how and who we want to be before diving back into “normal.” We’ve missed our normalcy, right? But was our normal good? Was it healthy? Was it something we really want to return to? Was it truly normal? What is normal anyway?

 

 

On one of our daily walks, my daughter and I discussed this but she shared an interesting twist on it. What if, during all this social distancing, we’ve discovered that some of the people we socialized with when things were “normal” maybe aren’t those we want to socialize with when the pandemic passes?

 

Hmmmm.

Good question Kristen.

 

As you social distance and self-quarantine, ask yourself “who do I really miss?” “Who do I not miss at all?” “Who called me during this time of social separating and who have I not heard from at all?”

 

On the flip side, consider who you’ve been in touch with during the past few weeks that you maybe wouldn’t have in that normal world we’re all so longing to return to. Did you reach out to someone who just happened to be on your mind? Did you check in on a friend or family member you maybe hadn’t talked to in months? If so, that should tell you something. Those are your people. Keep them. Nurture them.

 

And then, flip that flip side over and reflect on who contacted you. They are also your people. Pay it forward and pay them the attention and respect they deserve. For me, one such person is someone who’s been in my life since our daughters were in preschool and from who I actually got a card in the mail. Yes, in the mail. I gotta say, it truly made my day.

 

 

For all its condemnation, social media has proved an excellent and vital method of communicating if you can make it past all the politics and pointing of fingers. I’ve loved all the “good news” stories, tips and thoughts. I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends and family on so many levels and actually found out that friends we met years ago in Costa Rica are pregnant after many failed attempts. We haven’t seen them since our trip, but we have kept in touch via Facebook all these years, as has another couple we met on the same trip, and to share in their joy from so far away was pure joy. In one little post, Texas, Virginia, and New York all came together and thanked God for answered prayers. Say what you will about Facebook, but it does have its benefits.

 

How about you? Are there any “friends” out there who for more than a month now you haven’t heard from or reached out to? Sure, we can’t reach out to everyone we know and love, so how about those who you haven’t even thought of. Does simply saying their name(s) out loud reveal anything to you? Is it time to let a friendship go or is it time to pony up and make a call or send a text? Your call.

 

 

For me, this #stayhome stint has strengthened and united a group of women I worked with in TV news years ago. Our group text is busy all day every day and I feel so connected and in touch with how each of them are being affected by and getting through the current crisis. We share good news, bad news, and a toast or two and being that we share such a long and wonderful history, the fact that we now share our COVID struggles and solutions even though our life paths are all so different, is one of a handful of stay home silver linings.

 

They are just one group I “socialize” with on Zoom and Houseparty, which seem to be where the parties are these days.  Somehow they make the impersonal personal as it’s great to see each other’s face and not just hear voices or read words. I for one am very grateful for my virtual happy hour friends!

 

          Tricia Robinson

My work friends are also at the top of the “I miss them so much” list. We are all working remote and I love seeing any of their posts or getting a simple text from one of them. I miss those ladies so very much. I also miss my little three-year-olds from my class and their families. Thankfully, I do get to “see” them on our class site, but not getting daily hugs and hearing stories only little ones can tell are things not even the internet can duplicate.

 

Then there are those wonderful women (and men!) who have texted me, messaged me, and even called me. The calls stand out, as I’m not a big phone talker but when was the last time the majority of us actually talked on the phone?!  We all own phones. Pick them up and call someone.

 

 

It is said we have three kinds of friendships: pleasant, useful, and virtuous. The first two often end up fleeting but the third one is what true and good friends really are. Don’t take my word for it; take Aristotle’s as he’s who came up with the whole idea.

 

The Greek philosopher put a great deal of importance on friendship and considered it not only vital on the path to a good life but a valuable possession as well. According to him, the three types are friendships based on utility, pleasure or delight, and virtue.

 

The first type is the most common of the three and consists of all those people you associate with for mutual usefulness. You might not be besties with your hair stylist or mechanic, but you both provide a usefulness to each other that is satisfactory. This is also usually the case with coworkers and classmates.

 

“Friends” who use people for their own gain and live by a “what’s in it for me” mentality also fall into this first group. These are those who flatter you while manipulating the situation to get something like social status or recognition out of it. In conversations, they say a lot “me” and “I” and rarely ask you how you are or anything about your life. Although you can’t really consider them true friends, you probably have plenty of them in your life. And that’s okay. Know it, be aware of their motives, and as they say, keep your friends close and these types of enemies closer. Eyes wide open friends.

 

 

Next up are those you are friends with the for the sake of pleasure which, is important to note, was more than just sexual to Aristotle. While physical pleasure can be grouped here, it also includes pure delight in someone like say that really funny but unreliable pal, a fellow gym rat, or a drinking buddy. Most in this group only want to have a good time. Getting deep is not their goal. Friends in this category might also be teammates and fellow book clubbers. You may not share your deepest and darkest secrets with them, but you have common interests and enjoy their company. This is the level of friendship commonly found in childhood and especially those teen years. If being friends with someone brings you pleasure but not a whole lot else, place that buddy firmly in this category.

 

 

Last comes the most solid of friendships. These bonds have stood the test of time and neither distance nor time separates you. These are the friends you can’t imagine life without. They cheer your successes and provide a shoulder to cry on during hurt times. They are authentic and honest and conversations with them are deep comfort zones in which to “dump.” You share everything with them and hide nothing. They know your life isn’t perfect and you know theirs isn’t either. You trust them with your secrets and you trust their advice. You respect them and their beliefs, know they won’t turn on you, and sharing and making memories is cherished on both sides. You encourage, nurture, support, and celebrate them and they do the same for you. In a word, you fully and truly appreciate these pals for who they are and they genuinely like you. These are your bridesmaids and those you travel with. Sadly, these friendships are the rarest of the three. If you have five of these you are considered lucky. More than five? Considered yourself blessed.

 

That being said, who stands where in your life? Take this time to discover who’s offered to help you, laugh with you, cry with you, or pray for you. Who have you reached out to or heard from? Do you miss those fun times friends or really haven’t thought of them? Make a list and consider who’s who. Then, all those who you miss and treasure? Give them a call or at the very least, shoot them a text. Better yet; face time someone. You might just make their quarantined day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feet First April 9, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:14 pm

As I went through my morning routines today that include prayer, stretching, and then emails and social media (in that order!) I couldn’t help but see the irony of what I read and saw. I read all about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, stretched into a forward fold and touched my feet, and then read many a post about being in desperate need of a pedicure. Hmmmm…

 

I’m right there with you nail biters as my feet are not in their best visual shape, but I’m pretty sure what we all need right now way more than “pick color” is “chose Jesus.”

 

 

Can you even imagine Jesus washing your feet? The closest I’ve come is during a retreat many years ago during which priests washed the feet of all retreat attendees. I wasn’t aware it was going to occur, so when it did I was in total awe. All these years later I still remember it and it still moves me.

 

 

Today on Holy Thursday we celebrate the washing of feet as well as the Last Supper. Not only do we learn that Jesus humbled Himself, bent down, and washed feet, we also learn about the Eucharist during the Last Supper. So, not only do we get the gift of water, but of the blessed water and wine as well. If this isn’t a “give us this day our daily bread” moment I don’t know what is. “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and the institution of it is celebrated and re-enacted during every Catholic mass. I for one am very thankful for being called to it.

 

 

I’m also thankful for and think back to all those glorious massages I’ve gotten and how amazing it feels when a masseuse rubs my feet. Feet are formidable. They give you stability and balance, grip and strength as you walk and run, and they serve as your body’s shock absorbers. One quarter of all the bones in a human body are in the feet and each foot has more than 7,000 nerve endings; 26 bones; 33 joints; and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. If your feet ache or are out of alignment, you can bet your whole body will be too.

 

I’m also grateful for the many pedicures I’ve gotten in the past as I’ve always considered them such a luxury. Who would really choose to work on feet? I know many people who say “I don’t do feet” and swear they’d take care of me in my dying days but would never do my feet or my toes. I’m having to do just that as of late. My daughter is having a toe/toe nail issue and I’ve had to be Dr. Carla in cleaning and wrapping it. It looks like she’s going to the nail, it bleeds every now and then, and I gotta say it’s not my favorite thing to do.  But, if Jesus could do feet, so can I and so can all of us. In fact, St. Ambrose tells us that “where Adam stumbled, Jesus decided to wash.” We all need to reach out to others and reach to those places of degradation and shame.

 

 

Today’s washing of the feet isn’t the only time we hear of the concept of tending to feet.  Mere days ago and six days before Passover, we learned that Jesus went to Bethany and visited the home of Lazarus, who He had raised from the dead. There, Mary of Bethany took a liter of expensive and precious perfumed oil and anointed His feet with it. She was criticized by Judas the Iscariot, who famously betrayed Jesus, who shamefully questioned Mary on why she would waste it rather than sell it.

 

 

My feet have been on my mind quite a bit lately, as I’ve been walking way more than I did mere months ago. Every day I go out and walk the neighborhood, focusing on our dogs, our “homebound” adult daughter walking beside me, and sunny days. Maybe I should also focus on my actual feet and rather than care that the polish on my toes is long gone, be grateful for them and pray for all those pedicure businesses that are currently closed.

 

 

So on this day of foot washing and blessed meal sharing, let’s all try to focus on being grateful, humble, and true cleansing. Feed each other love, smell the fragrance of perfumed oil that heaven spreads, wash away our egos, and walk with joy on feet we are so blessed to have.

 

 

 

Generational Gaps April 7, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:11 pm

 

We are now three-plus weeks into our social distancing and #stayhome regarding coronavirus. When the crisis first hit the states, it was reported that the elderly and health-compromised were most at risk to catch the disease but that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Yes, seniors have been hit and hit hard, but so have many of younger generations.

 

The past few weeks Spring Breakers were spotted on beaches and a large group of local college-aged students returned from a Spring Break trip to Mexico and many are now testing positive for COVID-19. Those blasted Millennials, right? Wrong.

 

That age group, come to find out, is not officially “Millennials.” I’m as guilty as anyone in automatically considering anyone between 20 and their mid-30s to be Millennials, but defining generations is quite the science and there’s perhaps no place better to refer than Pew Research.

 

Pew defines generations based on the following birth years:

 

You might see some of those years vary a year or two depending on where you look or who you ask, but these are generally agreed upon eras. But what does it matter and where do we go from here? And where’s the “Greatest Generation” and why the letters?

 

 

It all started with Generation X, which came after the Baby Boomers, called that because they were born during a spike or “boom” of baby births after WWII and new-found post-war prosperity. Hello soldiers returning triumphantly home!

 

But what to call the next group? With no distinct qualifier like the war or a run of births, X marked the spot of who came next. They were named Gen X because it was thought the “X” described their lack of identity. After that it was the end of the alphabet in order with Millennials originally dubbed Generation Y. The name “Millennial” is said to have come from Neil Howe and William Strauss who coined the term in 1989 when the turn of the millennium was coming. Gen Z is next, but has yet to define what that Z actually stands for.

 

Each generation serves as a reference to around 20 years and the historic events, attitudes, and what was popular during those times. Let’s take a look at each and escape the COVID-19 news if even just for a bit.

 

 

 

 

THE GREATEST GENERATION

Pew Research and most experts consider anyone born before 1927 to be in what is called the “Greatest Generation,” those we owe so much respect and gratitude toward and the parents of “Baby Boomers.” They grew up, came of age during, and fought in WWII as well as the Great Depression. The Cold War and the start of the Civil Rights Movement are also ingrained in their lives. This group of patriots were proud to plant their roots in the U.S. and set high standards of education for their children. Today, this elderly and simple generation lives by a “waste not want not attitude,” love conformity and traditional values, and value having financial security and not depending on others for assistance. They are great team players, understand and respect sacrifice, and are loyal to the end. These American heroes grew up very simple and don’t appreciate or understand today’s “throw away” society and lack of being thrifty and respectful.

 

 

SILENT GENERATION

This group, born between 1928-1945, was also raised during WWII and the Great Depression and have many of the same traits as their elders in the Greatest Generation. In all honesty, I had never heard of this group and still somewhat lumped all together with the Greatest Generation. In any case, they are similarly characterized by a strong work ethic and highly regard discipline, the upholding of values, gratitude, and life’s simplicities rather than extravagances.

 

 

BABY BOOMERS

Hello ME! I’m a certified Boomer, born between 1945 and 1964. Today’s “Empty Nesters,” Baby Boomers have seen it all through some monumental events including the Cold and Vietnam Wars; the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King; the Moon Landing, Woodstock and endless protests and sit-ins of the hippie movement; the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements, and Watergate and resignation of President Nixon. No wonder they are often free-spirited and social-cause oriented! The term “workaholic” came about thanks to Baby Boomers, who are hard workers but also individualistic, love to experiment, and never say never.

 

Baby Boomers grew up as television was coming to be and living rooms everywhere welcomed the new technology. They are still the largest consumers of TV, as well as radio, magazines, and newspaper. I personally can attest to this as I’m a consumer of all four. Just as the internet, cell phones, Wi-Fi, and social media have revolutionized younger generations, televisions did the same for Baby Boomers. For Boomers, technology is more about convenience and keeping in touch with friends and family then a necessity. Many still have landlines but use smart phones proficiently.

 

 

GEN X

This is the generation for which the term “slackers” was coined. Born between 1965-1979, they were also dubbed “latchkey” kids and the MTV generation. Nevertheless, they are the first generation to be at ease with technology and spend more time on Facebook per week than any other group. Gen X also has more single parent families and more divorces than any other generation. It should come as no surprise therefore, that they are independent, reject rules, mistrust institutions, and are on a constant quest for emotional security. They are also very informal and today’s more casual work environments and flexible work schedules are somewhat thanks to them. Gen X is also balancing quite a bit, including growing their careers, raising a family, and taking care of aging parents. Monumental and historic events that will be attached to them for generations to come include computers, grunge/hip hop, MTV, AIDS, the Challenger explosion, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Reaganomics.

 

 

MILLENIALS

“Ask a Millennial” to the above question, right? Those poor Millennials; so made fun of and blamed. Born between 1980 and 1994, Millennials are a distinct age group in more ways than just their distinct name. They’ve given us Paleo and gluten free diets, designer dogs and reality TV, avocado toast and endless toasts of rose all day. What’s not to make fun of, right? In all honesty though, it’s not totally their fault.

 

Millennials were raised by parents who helicoptered them, sheltered them, and/or constantly built them up. These are the “trophies for everyone” kids who today want constant communication and positive reinforcement from their bosses and strive to be close to their peers. Often called entitled, Millennials are indeed impatient, achievement oriented, and have short attention spans, but they are also optimistic, entrepreneurial, and financially savvy.

 

 

Perhaps through a combination of those helicopter parents and a “listen and learn” attitude toward Gen X’ers, Millennials are better educated than any previous generation and Millennial women are more likely to work outside of the home than prior generations, with 72 percent being employed. They are also more likely to be “boomerang kids” who return home and live with their parents. Many struggle with student debt, which is keeping some from getting married, buying a home, and starting families.

 

This “work to live rather than live to work” group entered the work force in the middle of an economic recession and is often referred to as the “slow start” work force even though they did so in a particularly challenging job market. They were probably the first generation to perfect the art of multi-tasking as they listened to music while studying and text and converse every day all day.

 

Very adept and the first to order heavily online, Millennials are extremely brand loyal and have little or no patience for inefficient products or poor service. They love their Apples and they love their Lulus. Millennials most likely have multiple social media accounts, get their music now from Spotify rather than their once beloved CD players, regularly binge on Netflix, and only have a mobile device. Landlines are ancient history to them and all subsequent generations.

 

When you think of Millennials, think Oklahoma City bombing, the rise of the internet and cell phones, the O.J. Simpson trial and death of Princess Diana, Columbine shootings, terrorism, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s important to note that although the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in 2011, most Millennials were old enough to comprehend the historical significance of the attacks while most Gen Z’ers have little or no memory of the event.

 

Millennials are now or will soon be (depending on who you ask) the largest living adult generation, overtaking Baby Boomers. But it’s not because so many are being born or giving birth, it’s due in part because immigration has been boosting their numbers, particularly a growing number of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. This has resulted in Millennials being more ethnically and racially diverse than older generations and are more culturally and racially tolerant. Just don’t disagree with them!

 

 

 

GEN Z

These are the children of Gen X and they are under a lot of pressure to succeed. They’ve almost always had a mobile phone either of their own or playing on their parents and like Millennials, have no idea what a land line or dial phone is. They truly care about the state of things, want to make a positive difference in the world, and long to be taken seriously.  And funny enough, many of the things Millennials consider preferences are things Gen Z expects. They see Millennials struggle with debt and their Gen X parent’s financial struggles and are a bit more fiscally conservative.

 

Gen Z is the real deal when talking digital-ites and gamers and are totally dependent on technology. Sirium/XM radio came to be during their years of growing up and they consider their mobile devices extensions of themselves and prefer Facetiming over even texting. They love their Instagram filters, Vine, Twitter, and Tik-Tok is the current rage with them and Millennials alike. They demand instant gratification, live by “next, next, next,” and care deeply about what’s trending. They have always been online and “connected” so it’s no surprise that they are independent and sometimes lack community-oriented social skills and the idea of being a team player. They prefer self-direction and small bits of information comparable to a tweet or a post and have an uncanny ability to process information at lightning speed. They are also very creative but have little concern for privacy, leading them to be “open books.”

 

Historically, they will always be tied to 9/11, smart phones, social media, the Great Recession, Hurricane Katrina, and Donald Trump will be the first president most Gen Z’ers know as they turn 18. They will also most likely have to solve escalating and divisive environmental, social, and economic problems.

 

 

SNOWFLAKES

All of this leads us to “snowflakes.” Although not a true generation like the ones mentioned above, snowflakes are generally thought to be those born after the Millennium and became adults in the 2010s. The name comes from the fact that no two snowflakes are alike and the fact that their parents raised them as unique and special. Today the word has taken on a more negative tone as snowflakes are often branded as entitled, whiney, overly-sensitive, self-obsessed, fragile, easily offended, and unable to deal with adversity or opposing opinions. The word has become so commonly used and popular that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in January 2018 and suffice it to say, being called a “snowflake” is anything complimentary or something to aspire to being.

 

 

I don’t know what all this means at this time or on this day; whatever day it might be. I also don’t know if it even matters right now when all that matters is staying home and staying safe. I guess it’s just something I found interesting and I hope you did too. If nothing else, it’s diverted some attention away from COVID-19, which is creating a generation all its own.

 

 

 

 

United We Band April 2, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:00 pm

    Fearless Girl on Wall Street AP/Kevin Hagen

You know it’s really starting to hit when two of the first social media posts you read in the morning are those posted by friends normally faith-filled and little rays of positive sunshine. The first one prompted me to call her after reading not one but two items about grief. I had to check in and make sure she is okay. The second one dealt with dressing in “real” clothes and doing her hair today and how just applying her hair spray made her tear up as it triggered thoughts and memories of actually getting ready for a day filled with work, friends, and just going out.

 

Day fill-in-the-blank, right? For me, I’ve been staying home and basically self-isolating since March 20. That was the first day of my Spring Break but as I heard COVID-19 threats growing, I went to the grocery store, stocked up, and prepared to hunker down. A couple’s dinner party had already been cancelled as had a market days outing with two friends. My husband got sent home from a pro golf tournament and our daughter had multiple weddings and sales meetings moved or cancelled. It all so quickly imploded on us and at what felt like record pace. I had made no plans for Spring Break and was so looking forward to a week at home doing absolutely nothing or whatever I wanted. Careful what you ask for, right?

 

Do you know why it’s called COVID-19 and referred to as “Corona Virus?” Well, it refers to a family of viruses that can cause everything from the common cold to SARS and MERS. “COVID-19” stands for coronavirus disease 2019 as it first appeared in 2019 in Wuhan, China. The “corona” part comes from the crownlike spikes on the viruses’ surface, depicted as red protrusions off a circle in photographs we see. “Corona” means “crown” in Spanish.

 

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were watching in disbelief and horror as Wuhan, China was in lock down, the city’s streets were eerily empty, and makeshift hospitals were being built? And what about that cruise ship stuck in Japan? Then, in what seemed like overnight, Italy was ground zero for the virus and, even though so much of what we own and buy is “Made in China,” Italy being under siege seemed to sound the “could it come here” alarms.  My coworker’s granddaughter was studying abroad in Italy and I remember her family debating whether she should come home. Thank God she did. Fast forward to today and here we are; doing the very same things. Locking down. Erecting hospitals. Stocking up on toilet paper. It’s frightening and it’s a shock to our systems.

 

We are facing tough times and guess what, real grief is real right now. We are all grieving our former lives, our jobs, our freedoms. Some are grieving grueling schedules and deaths. Suddenly things we took for granted are luxuries. Things we didn’t perhaps love doing are now longed for. For me, that means grocery shopping. Anyone who knows me knows I hate going to the grocery store but what I wouldn’t give right now to go to my neighborhood HEB to buy whatever I need or want. And yes, that would very likely include toilet paper.

 

 

I miss my former life. Running errands. Going to church and book club. Going out to eat and shopping. Getting my hair and nails done. Going to yoga and seeing my yoga squad. I miss work. I miss my little three-year-olds and their wonder and joy. I miss their parents who help keep me young and motivated. I miss my coworkers. So very much. I miss being able to do all of this and not worrying one bit about germs on my hands or touching my face.

 

Instead, I’m home. But yes, safe at home not stuck at home. And I’m grateful my daughter and husband are here with me. Funny thing is, it’s not the “quality family time” you read about. The three of us yes, spend some time together binging Netflix and eating, but for the most part we are individually living our lives. We’re just doing so all under one roof.

 

For me that’s meant cooking everything from new dinner ideas to homemade dog treats, watching endless news reports (I know, but once a newsie always a newsie) and TV shows. Binging hasn’t been as enjoyable as I thought it would be however, because so much of what people watch is either disturbing or dark. Thankfully my daughter recently discovered “Grey’s Anatomy” and it’s now on almost 24-7. And although I’m discovering it with her, the whole hospital/doctors/nurses theme is a bit too timely and realistic. In between, I’ve also done some touch up painting in the house I’ve been wanting to do and we have been walking a ton. Needless to say our three dogs aren’t complaining about the current situation!  I’ve also been spending a lot of time in quiet prayer and am so grateful to do yoga online with an instructor I love but whose studio is far from my home. Nicki: you have been a Godsend!

 

What I haven’t been doing a lot of and it’s kinda shocking to me, is reading. I love to read and have stacks of books just waiting to open up. But, for some reason I can’t even focus on the book I’m in the middle of even though I love it (“Bridge of Sighs” for anyone asking) and I’m not sure why. I think I’m just distracted and disjointed.

 

On the whole I’m trying to stay positive as I stay home, but I worry. Every day. I worry about my 89-year-old mom who is home alone back in my hometown and whether my husband and daughter are washing their hands. I worry every time I open the mail or retrieve a delivered package. I wonder if it’s better to just eat home-cooked meals or support local restaurants and order to-go meals from them. I worry about our country that, even in the midst of what many are calling a “war,” cannot seem to put aside our differences and work together as one. I also worry how and when we are ever going to get out of this. If you listen to the experts, it’s going to be a long haul. And that worries me.

 

 

          Evelyn Henson

Welcome to the new normal, right? Much like we had to get use to changes at airports after 9/11, we will need to get use to who knows what. That causes anxiety. And it makes me anxious.

 

So, one book I have been reading is Max Lucado’s “Anxious for Nothing.”  In it he describes a feeling of not being able to relax and feeling like the other shoe is yet to drop. Anxiety, he says is a “meteor shower” of what-ifs, trepidation, suspicion, and apprehension. Check, check, check, check. Then there is fear, which sees a true threat. Anxiety, on the other hand, imagines one. Our lives right now, right? In fact, the very word “anxious” is a hybrid of “angst,” which is a sense of unease.

 

The U.S. is good at worrying and is the most anxious nation in the world. Lucado half jokingly writes that if worry were an Olympic event, we’d be gold medalists. Oddly enough, there so much worry out there that even the Olympics have been postponed. But what causes anxiety? Change and challenge for starters. Hmmmm…pretty much two things enveloping our lives and our world right now.

 

 

Oh good grief. Grief is what many of us are also experiencing on many levels. And that’s okay. We are all living with a daily dose of it and in epic proportions. David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief, discussed the topic with the Harvard Business Review and says that although much of what we’re feeling is temporary, it’s all real and it involves things we are not used to dealing with. On top of that, we are experiencing collective grief; something else we are not accustomed to. Finally, we are also feeling “anticipatory grief,” which is the worrisome feeling we get about what the future holds. Enter anxiety.

 

I’m anxious and worried about our health care workers and health care industry. I’m also worried about people losing their jobs, shops and restaurants closing their doors, airlines, and the economy as a whole. Just when we were doing the best we ever had economy-wise in this country with record job levels in every category, we are hit with a pandemic and unprecedented unemployment numbers. Will we ever bounce back fully and completely? I’m concerned about those in domestic abuse situations and pray they find a way and a safe place to go while being told to “stay home.”

 

I worry about parents who are home with their kids. I cannot imagine trying to work from home, log on to connect with each child’s teachers several times a day, make dinner, clean the house, check in with elderly parents, and everything in between. Just remember, kids are watching and how they feel during this time will stay with them for many years. Work to make them feel secure and safe while you are homeschooling and house cleaning. These kids will be the ones who tell their kids and grandkids their own version of “I had to walk for miles in snow to get to school.” Make it one of resilience.

 

For days on end I go to bed anxious and drained but then wake up each day and try to stay positive and productive. It’s a vicious cycle of uncertainty and optimism. For a week or so I worried I will “get it” or that a family member does. Coughing? Oh no! Sneezing? Yikes! But wait, thankfully all of that is just seasonal allergies, which unfortunately are in full bloom where I live. My main worry is the whole scary situation as a whole.

 

 

         Photo credit: jbro47

I for one have faith in the team that is leading us in this fight and I feel for President Trump and all those on his team. Do they ever rest? Aren’t they exhausted? They truly have the weight of the world on their shoulders and the last thing they need is continued finger pointing, division, and hate. The fact that some trinkets and items are manufactured in China as cost-cutting measures is maybe okay, but the fact that 95 percent of our antibiotics and many other medications are, is not. We must protect our borders, bring manufacturing back home, and be less dependent on other countries. These issues have been discussed for years now but deemed unacceptable by some. Back in January a travel ban to and from China was enacted and a Coronavirus Task Force was formed but mere weeks later impeachment pens were ceremoniously handed out and a State of the Union speech in which we were warned about the threatening virus was ripped in half on national TV. Let it go people. No one deserves this and no country on earth or miracle worker could have perfectly prepared for this type of event so instead of filling our new void with your criticisms and bitterness, how ‘bout filling it with kindness and prayer. Do us all a favor and stop casting the first stone, won’t you?

 

 

So what might our new normal look like? Video and virtual chatting like the above? I’ve actually been doing exactly that and have downloaded Zoom, which I’d never heard of mere weeks ago, and have taken part in group chats and a yoga class. I’m hoping this will not be the case months from now though. We are all so dependent on all things online that I’m concerned one of our new normals is going to be a complete change in the way we not just communicate but do commerce as a country. One of my thoughts is that brick and mortar stores, which even before coronavirus were feeling an economic pinch, will lose even more customers to online buying and I particularly fret for small businesses that have had to close up shop. Big corporations and companies are also a concern, as they employ hundreds of thousands who support those small businesses. Television ads now tout “free shipping” and “contact free delivery” and every online site is offering free shipping and deep discounts. But, with Amazon reporting COVID-19 exposure at warehouses, do we really feel safe? Is our new normal wiping down and spraying every piece of mail, package, and bag of stuff we get?  Maybe, hopefully maybe not.

 

 

Photo courtesy: Be More With Less

So what can we do? First and foremost stay home, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. It can’t be said enough: STAY HOME PEOPLE! I don’t care how bored you are or how tempting that neighborhood park looks. The rules do apply to you, regardless of how healthy or invincible you feel.

 

Kessler also recommends acknowledging the common stages of grief. First there’s anger: “I’m angry I have to stay home.” Then there’s bargaining: “Okay so if I social distance for two weeks I’m okay and can then go out?” This is usually followed by sadness, “I have no idea when this will ever end and people are dying.” Lastly, there’s acceptance and that’s where we all need to focus on arriving at. We must accept that we need to stay home, avoid contact with anyone we can’t avoid, work virtually, keep a safe distance when and if we MUST leave the house, and wash our hands.

 

 

Also remind yourself what you can and can’t control. You can’t control what is happening in New York or New Orleans or what your neighbors are doing, but you can control what you do and don’t do. As Kessler says, we are taking the right precautions and this is the time to overprotect and not overreact.

 

We are living in historic times and this event will forever be linked to this year and this generation. You and I will one day tell others where we were when it happened and how we handled it. It’s frightening but it can also be the most remarkable act of solidarity we may ever witness and the year the world came to its senses.

 

 

If there is any silver lining in any of this, it’s that we have discovered who the real heroes are among us and who are truly essential: health care workers, truckers, grocery store staffs, teachers, delivery drivers, sanitation workers, warehouse workers, our military, scientists, bankers, farmers, utility workers, and a host of others. We are also grateful for the many companies and businesses that have so quickly retrofitted to make ventilators, masks, and other much-needed items. This includes all those sewing circles making masks and volunteers stocking food pantries. We’ve also come to the realization that all those things all all those people we thought were so important, aren’t. Funny how actors, musicians, and professional athletes don’t make the cut.

 

 

When it’s all over, we need to remember to go out to eat and shop local. Vacation in the U.S. and buy American. All those stores that delivered to your doorstep will need you to step inside their doors. Until then, take these weeks and possibly months to pray for blessings upon those working overtime on curing everything having to do with COVID-19 and count your blessings. We might not know what the future holds, but we know who holds it.

 

Stay safe my friends and while we stay at home, let’s pray at home. Pray for healing, strength, wisdom, guidance, and solidarity. We are in this together and we will get through this. Together. But separated.

 

 

 

Horoscoping It Out March 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:29 pm

 

I saw the above witty meme this week in the midst of all the gloom and doom, and despite the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found it and some other humorous ones a nice break from the darkness. I also found it timely, as a few weeks ago some co-workers and I (back when we were going to work) were talking about our astrological signs and were amazed to discover that our signs often matched our personalities.

 

I’ve been wanting to blog about this subject but it seemed a little insensitive or superfluous considering the times, but after seeing the above, I thought, “why not?” We all need a daily brain drain, so let this be it as we take a brief break from the Corona Virus news and sit back with some other “CV” news: Capricorns and Virgos…along with all the other signs.

 

When researching for this blog, I turned to none other than the American Federation of Astrologers, which was founded in 1938. According to the AFA, Babylonians are generally credited with the birth of astrology. They used astrological charts to predict seasons and celestial events and for more than 2,000 years astrology and astronomy were considered the same science.

 

Babylonia astrology was introduced to the Greeks in the early 4th century BC and through the studies of Plato, Aristotle, and others, it became a highly regarded science and was soon embraced by the Romans whose zodiacal signs are still used today. Let’s look at them.

 

 

Do these apply to you according to your sign? I am a Taurus and many of its traits most definitely apply to me. Yep, I don’t like change but will do what’s necessary, often underestimate myself, appreciate honesty and truth, am stubborn, and tend to stay true to myself and to myself.

 

 

Again, pretty much me to a T, which may explain why I’m fairly comfortable with all this “social distancing” and #stayhome orders. Sadly, my zodiac sign gives no comfort for worry or anxiety, which is totally messing with my control issues.

 

How about you? Are all you Libras idea driven but detached emotionally? Scorpios, are you able to read people and are protective and compassionate? Do any of you read your daily horoscopes?

 

 

Those could actually be “Top 10 Signs to Spot Carla,” as all 10 describe me spot on. As I said, I’m stubborn as an ox (or bull?) but I’m also very reliable, loyal, and hard-working. I cannot stand anything fake or phony, love to learn, and I don’t put up with much BS; unless perhaps if food or something “fine” is involved! If you don’t believe me, ask my husband.

 

He is a Leo and is yes, intense, direct, strong, tough, not fond of clingy people, gets things done quickly and in a “no nonsense” manner, but is more giving and forgiving than one would think. Our daughter is also a Taurus. I went into labor on my birthday and she was born the next day at 3:30 in the morning. So, I like to say my hubby thinks he’s the Lion and king of the jungle, but he lives/lived with two Taurus females so there’s really no bull as to who truly rules the roost, right?

 

 

Fittingly given the current state of affairs, earliest astrology was used to bring a sense of order out of chaos and was used to predict weather patterns for agricultural and other purposes. It was eventually broadened to include forecasts of natural disasters, wars, and other catastrophic events.

 

So let’s see, COVID-19 was first brought to our attention in Wuhan, China in December 2019, right? That would put it under either Sagittarius or Capricorn, depending on the exact date, which we will probably never really know.

 

Sagittarius is a fire sign while Capricorn is an earth sign. Yeah, pretty sure fire has rained down on planet earth by way of a highly contagious virus; a virus that is truly stubborn and remains somewhat of a mystery like earth signs and intense and strong like fire signs. But this is just my thinking and I’m no astrologer or astronomer; although my science of choice in college was Astronomy!

 

The word “zodiac” was derived from the Greek word for “circle of animals” and its meanings and signs are believed to have been developed in ancient Egypt and later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers knew it took 12 lunar cycles/months for the sun to return to its original position. They then identified 12 constellations linked to the the seasons and assigned them names of animals and people.

 

Each of these signs have assigned dates of birth for each person, which are:

 

Horoscopes, which I won’t go into, are short forecasts for people born under a particular sign and based on the positions of stars and planets at the time of that person’s birth. The word “horoscope” is derived from the Greek words “ora” and “scopos,” which mean “time” and “observer.”

 

I am not a big believer in horoscopes but I’m forever amazed at how often the traits of one’s astrological/zodiac sign match their personality traits. Many think of astrology as superstitious and without any scientific basis, but whatever yours or my thoughts are, its popularity is stronger than ever today. Maybe people are searching for meaning and direction or maybe they’re just looking to find a deeper meaning of themselves and their lives.

 

 

 

How about me? I don’t lean on horoscopes or astrology to guide me, but I can’t argue with the fact that I’m all of the above and I own them all. I’m passionate, extremely observant, a deep thinker, and actually enjoy a little argument or debate as long as they’re not personal and are constructive. Provoke me however, and I might explode. My husband calls it “that Spanish anger.” Hmmm, come to think of it Spaniards love their bulls and their bullfights. Ole!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are All Carriers March 22, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:29 pm

Well, spring has officially arrived but doesn’t it feel like the earth is truly wrapped in life does it? Death and near death are broadcast 24-7. And for the most part, for good reason. But have we lost some sense of reason too? I sit here almost hesitant and anxious to write this today, but I feel a calling and am hoping it will be therapeutic for me. And for you.

 

 

I started the day reading the calendar daily devotion at the top of this blog, which ironically is right next to the above little sign about faith, as I do every day when I brush my teeth but today’s message kinda hit me hard. The earth feels so covered in death as we all anxiously await an awakening of epic proportions while we suffer through a pandemic of epic proportions. How then, do we keep the faith and keep from going crazy as we hunker down and social distance?

 

 

My husband and I started the day like we have the past several “groundhog days” by having our coffee and eggs but it all seemed a little gloomy and monotonous today. Then we went online and live streamed our parish’s mass and by simply listening to Fathers Michael and Jared lead their virtual congregation we were both peacefully moved. No looking around at who’s in that pew, what we’re wearing, or what we have to do after mass, but rather just sitting with closed eyes and open hearts in our pajamas in our house. Be still God told us, and we were. It was probably one of the most moving masses I can remember. And I wasn’t even there.

 

God also told us “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them” and I remembered that we don’t go to church, we are the church. My husband and I were the church today, dogs and all. (St. Francis would be so happy!)

 

As God would have it, today’s gospel reading was John 9 in which Jesus heals a man who was born blind. In his sermon, Father Michael acknowledged the fact that we probably all shuttered as he read that Jesus spit on the ground to make a mud paste, which He then rubbed on the man’s eyes. Spit! Just hearing the word sends corona virus chills down our backs, right? But it was Jesus’ spit and is probably the spit this world needs more of right now.

 

Father Michael then talked about how perhaps we all need to “open” our eyes. Open them to what’s important and to our blessings, even among today’s despair. Later, I read something right along these lines that shook me.

 

 

It said that perhaps 2020 is the year God made for us to open our eyes. Much like during previous plagues, God maybe has taken away everything we worship. Perhaps He’s telling us, “You want to worship athletes, I will shut down stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down concert halls. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theatres. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it so you can’t go to church.” Yowzah, right?

 

Funny thing is, I’ve seen more people praying and more praying on social media then I ever have. I don’t know why this virus is happening and I certainly don’t have the answers on how to stop it, but I am hoping part of its healing will be to miraculously bring this country together. Maybe we don’t need a vaccine as much as we need a cure for all the hate and division out there. Hate is contagious and it’s spreading like wildfire out there. Can’t we just put all of it aside and spread love instead?

 

 

What we also need more of is hope. After watching mass this morning, I listened to Pastor Craig of Oklahoma City’s Life Church, recommended by a college friend. His message? We are all carriers. What? No! But that’s why we’re staying home; to not become carriers. Relax. His message is much more powerful than that.

 

Yes, he tells us, we are all carriers. Carriers of faith and hope. Love and charity. With all the gloom and doom out there, let’s do our best to be spreaders of faith, dealers of hope, and givers of love. Fear is so very contagious, but so is good news and the concept of enduring hope. I get it, we are all feeling anxious, worried, and discouraged. I’m right there with you. Our lives are surrounded by warnings and chaos. People are dying and daily staples are suddenly luxuries. Finding hope or any semblance of peace is challenging at best. So how, then, can we find hope in the chaos?

 

It very well might not be a return to normal as Pastor Craig so eerily cautioned. Why? Because the previous what we call “normal” maybe wasn’t so great. Yes, it was comfortable, but it was also self-absorbed, hurried, misguided, immoral, and spiritually lukewarm. Lucky for us, Jesus did not come for the righteous or the perfect; He came for the rejected and imperfect. The imperfect and misguided ones. Like you and me.

 

It’s no secret this country has been in a very imperfect and misguided state long before COVID-19 attacked us. The two sides of the proverbial aisle are so far apart they may never try to make their way to the middle much less meet there. Hate has overtaken disagreement and blame is the game all those haters love to play. Again, maybe this crisis will bring us all together. We did it after 9/11 so I’m hoping we can do it again. We must do it again now. People are losing their lives, their jobs, and their loved one and yet we’re attacking and arguing over what words we use to call this virus?  News flash people: This is your wake-up call as this virus doesn’t care if you’re republican or democrat, black or white, male or female, rich or poor. We shouldn’t either.

 

 

Instead, let’s listen to an 80-year-old man a friend posted about who she ran into in the grocery store and asked if he needed anything, to which he responded: “Let me tell you what I need. I need to believe in this country my generation fought for. I need to believe in this nation we handed safely to our children and hope their children will respect what they’ve been given. I was a little boy during WWII. Those were scary days. We rationed and no home went without sacrifice or loss. We didn’t know if we were going to be speaking English, German or Japanese at the end of the war. There was no certainty, no guarantees like Americans enjoy today. But we persevered and we overcame. We didn’t attack our president, we came together. We were in it to win it.” We should all open our eyes and ears to this humble man. An American man. We may never truly understand the sacrifices he and others made, but we can learn from them and respect them.

 

 

So today as you begrudgingly walk the rooms of your homes for yet another day and post on social media, ask yourself if what you’re carrying is worth catching. Are you spreading hate, criticism, and fear, or are you spreading faith, hope, and love even where and when everyone is afraid? Don’t hoard; share and think of others. Stay inside, don’t complain. Again, I get it. It’s more than likely going to get worse before it gets better. This will be hard for me for sure. I’m the queen of worrying and overreacting but at least for today, I will try my hardest to have and to spread a hope no virus can kill. Will you join me?

 

Feathering Our Nests March 19, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:03 pm

Our nation and world are topsy-turvy places right now. Anxiety is up and social interaction is down. But there’s hope, and one sign of that is that spring is officially here! Amid all the chaos, happy first day of spring! It’s the season of rebirth and renewal and we all need a little of both right now, am I right? So, as we nest and stay home to “flatten the curve,” you could say spring couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as we have the time to look around our homes for ways to see light and being outside is one of the only “safe” activities being allowed.  And yes, I get it, home décor may seem trivial right now, but it can give us joy and for me, writing this provides something to pour myself into as I sit home and social distance.

 

 

            Southern Living

So, let’s all take just a moment or two to lighten up. Your home that is. And, what better way to lighten and brighten up our homes than to add a little wicker, rattan, cane, and other woven wonders of your choosing? And don’t think they’re just for porches and patios, as every room in your home needs a little texture and wovens and weaves are just the places to look whether it’s in a large sofa or headboard or a small basket, stool, and even lighting.

 

 


I am admittedly somewhat old school and still love me some mahogany and Queen Ann chairs, but I also love the look of a neutral woven.  I recently purchased a round front entry rug similar to one pictured below and chose woven shades for some of our windows in our home when we built it…and I love them! Best of all, all of these items don’t have to break the bank and can be as simple as the above Pottery Barn seagrass tray or the very affordable Target items also pictured above.

 

If you’re like me though, it’s easy to get confused as terms for the different versions are as interwoven and overlapping as the products themselves. What is wicker, what’s rattan, and what’s everything else? I’ve had time at home to research and read up, dig and decipher and even though I’m not 100 percent clear on it all, here’s what I’ve found:

 

First off, let’s start right off by decoding rattan and wicker. Rattan is a material and wicker is a style of weave. For example, a piece of furniture might be composed of rattan but embellished with a wicker-style weave design.

 

 

 

RATTAN

(left: Serena and Lily)

Rattan is actually the name for 600 species of fast-growing climbing palms, not a furniture style. The vine-like palm species that is rattan is a fast-growing tropical plant whose woody stems can be cut into sections and shaped into pretty much anything. Its softer inner-core is the part that’s woven and worked into wicker weaves. Indonesia is home to two-thirds of the world’s rattan population and rattan cane is what polo mallets are traditionally made from.

 

  

 

 

 

  

            

 

 

 

Rattan items pictured above: Mainly Baskets scalloped ottoman, Palecek barstools and chairs, Ballard Designs hanging basket, Serena and Lily daybed and bar cart, and Williams Sonoma stool

 

 

 

WICKER

(left: Pier 1)

The broad-reaching term “wicker” refers to a technique not so much a product. The method uses pliant plants like rattan and weaves them into a pattern. Yes rattan is the most common natural material used in wicker pieces but other plants and fibers, including bamboo, willow, and abaca as well as synthetic materials, can all be used.

 

When most of us think interwoven furniture and home décor, we probably think of wicker; especially white wicker. I actually love white wicker and in a previous home I had an entire guest room of it. Yep, that old-school Florida beach bungalow retirement home meets ‘70s girl’s room bright white wicker. I gotta say though, I loved it and it worked well in the room. But, when it came time to move, it didn’t make the cut. I still like white wicker but today’s wicker is more natural and earthy looking.

 

The timeless stuff can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt, was a popular staple in Victorian England, and the Pilgrims are said to have brought a wicker cradle to America on the Mayflower. But, despite its beachy associations, the word “wicker” has Scandinavian origins as the word “vika” means to bend and “vikker” means willow.

 

What we love about wicker is that it’s light and breezy yet sturdy. It tends to relax any room you put it in and if you use the right piece, it can also add a bit bohemian chic through pieces like a ‘70s-inspired egg chair.  If using wicker outside and unprotected from sun and rain, stick with a wicker piece made with synthetic fibers, while covered outdoor areas or anywhere inside are the perfect spots for natural wicker. Lee Radziwill, the chic and stylish sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, loved it so much she was buried in a wicker casket. I’d put money on it that it wasn’t white wicker though.

 

Wicker items pictured above: Ballard Designs swinging sconce, One Kings Lane collection, Target egg chair, Amish Baskets dog bed

 

 

 

CANE

Cane is generally any plant with a long, thin stem and the version used in furniture is derived from rattan. It is not sugar cane or bamboo, which is sometimes erroneously called “cane.” Made up of woven, durable, and nonporous strips, caning became popular is 1600s England and successfully competed with the already popular upholstered pieces. Chair caning is a method of weaving  when rattan cane or rattan peel is applied to furniture, most commonly the seats or backs of chairs and in chair repair.

 

When thinking of cane, think those open-weave seated café chairs popularized in Paris but also found in kitchens and eating areas the world over. Thonet’s “No. 14” wicker-seated bentwood bistro chair, pictured above left, may have well started the trend and became the world’s first mass-produced furniture item in 1859. In the 1970s Marcel Breuer brought the style back and in a big way with these little gems that today are mid-century modern favorites:

None other than Marie-Antoinette was also a fan, and her caned chair is on display at the Getty Center in L.A. Today you’ll find it on everything from those famous chairs to mirrors, lampshades, and tables.

 

Cane items pictured above: World Market tiered tower, Target chest, Pier 1 light pendants, Bobila platform bed

 

 

 

RUSH

This grass-like material is also sometimes called Bulrush, is generally made of dried cattails, is green in its natural state and can take up to one year to change into its warm golden tone. It is commonly used in woven chair seating like ladder-back chairs, which provide both a clean Shaker design and country farmhouse feel in urban and rural settings alike.  The most famous rush chair is considered the one that made a cameo in the 1953 Marilyn Monroe film “How to Marry a Millionaire” designed by T.H. Robsjoh-Gibbings. Renditions of it can be found at the L.A. boutique Hollywood at Home like the one at left.

 

 

 

Rush items pictured above: Antique Country French chairs, seated bench, and seat

 

 

 

RAFFIA

(left: Ballard Designs)

When I think raffia, I think gift wrapping embellishment or maybe wreaths and I bet you do too, but the product can also be incorporated into beautiful furniture and home decor. Raffia fibers are made from the veins of raffia palm trees and can be easily dyed and woven. It’s most commonly used in grass cloth wallcoverings, garden ties, and decorative string but if you’re looking for a very clean woven look, raffia is the way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            

 

            

Raffia items pictured above: Daggett baskets, Tommy Bahama Home chest, Serene Spaces Living chargers, Kathy Kuo Home chest, Ballard Designs sideboard

 

 

 

       

GRASSCLOTH

(left: Lelands Wallpaper)

Grasscloth is an umbrella term commonly used to describe wallcovering made from hand-woven strands of natural fibers of the inner bark of the ramie plant on an unpasted rice paper backing. The fibers include hemp, jute, sea grass, arrowroot grass, bamboo and raffia. It is very popular in the décor and design industry and one reason may be that it resembles linen, no two pieces are alike, and it is both beautiful and delicate

 

 

 

 

 

           

JUTE, SISAL, AND COIR

(left: Target)

Other materials extremely popular are jute, sisal, and coir particularly as natural fiber rugs. Jute is grown in the Indian subcontinents of Bengal and Bangladesh while Sisal is a natural fiber from the agave plant. Coir (pronounced coy-ur) is a natural fiber extracted from the outer husk of a coconut. Although the three look very much alike, Sisal is considered stronger and more durable while Jute is the smoother of the three. Both are very neutral additions to any room and can be played up by placing a more vibrant or patterned rug on top.

 

Sisal is a preferred material for carpet and rugs and is also used for rope and twine. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is the fiber used to make burlap, hessian, or gunny cloth. It is also popular for rugs and is second only to cotton in the amount produced and variety of uses. To clarify, burlap is a very strong and course cloth made from jute, flax, or hemp and is what those famous gunny sacks are made of.

 

As for those front doormats many of you probably have on your porch right now, odds are they are made of coir, which is also a popular brush and mattress material. It is known for its durability, strength, and water absorption. But telling you this is like preaching to the “coir,” right?

 

 Pictured above: Decor Pad jute and sisal rugs and stock photo coir doormat                        

 

 

 

Visual Comfort

 

I hope this small diversion from social distancing and media watching finds you and your family safe and healthy in your homes. Enjoy those homes and families and be grateful for them. And, as you nest, think about this thought I read on one my favorite bloggers and author’s, “The Nester,” site:  “One question I’ve asked myself about this unique time in our history is, when I look back on this time, what will I wish I would have done? And then, I try to do that thing.”

 

 

 

 

 

Water, Water Everywhere March 15, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:59 pm

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” John 4:7

 

Water. You could say it’s one of many buzzwords making the rounds these days. Wash your hands. Drink lots of water. Wash things often. We are drowning in all things water!

 

We’re also drowning in COVID-19 corona virus news.  One piece of advice I’ve seen posted everywhere on social media recommends gargling with salt water to prevent the virus’ germs from sitting dangerously in your throat. No, this isn’t a corona virus blog, so stay with me.

 

In support of this, I recently received a text from a wise and trusted friend with this tip and several others that reportedly came from a Stanford Hospital Board internal message. In the message, I read we should all make sure our mouths and throats are moist and never dry and we should be taking sips of water at least every 15 minutes. This, it said, is because drinking water and other liquids may wash the virus down our throats and into our stomachs, where stomach acid will kill the virus. If you don’t drink enough water, it warned, the virus can enter your windpipe and then your lungs, which is very dangerous. It also went on to say drinking warm water is more effective and to not drink liquids with ice.

 

All this made me curious so I checked it out. Although most sites claim there’s no evidence that the gargling trick can help ward off COVID-19, I’m of the thinking it probably couldn’t hurt and drinking lots of water is always recommended, right?

 

How water can and is proven to help is by using it to wash your hands! That’s been the key mantra during this whole corona crisis but how distressing is it that it’s something we should have all been doing this whole time? We all know the drill and yet sadly it takes a crisis to convince the masses.

 

 

When I read today’s gospel I couldn’t help but think “timely” and “prophetic” as it dealt with water. Today’s reading from John is what many of us know as “The woman at the well.” In short, Jesus comes across a Samaritan woman at a water well and asks her for a drink, which shocks the woman as Jews at that time would never approach a Samaritan. In the end, the woman walks away believing that Jesus is the living water and whoever drinks the water will never thirst.

 

 

We are all thirsting right now, whether it be for COVID-19 to become a thing of the past as quickly as it became our present or other woes and hopes that have nothing to do with today’s current events. Science teaches us that without water, life is not possible. The church teaches us that through the saving waters of Baptism we are reborn and every time we enter a Catholic church, we bless ourselves with healing holy water. The Bible too is full of water references in addition to the one in today’s gospel, including Jesus walking on water, the parting of the Red Sea,  Moses striking the rock and water springing from it, the turning of water into wine, the washing of feet, many stories of fishing and fishermen, and even Noah and Jonah, among many, many others.

 

Water is indeed spiritually beneficial but also physically beneficial. Staying hydrated is healthy and smart yet many of us don’t drink enough fluids each day. Think about this: adult human bodies are around 60 percent water, our blood is 90 percent water, and more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. In other words, water is a big deal!

 

 

I personally know just how “big” water is as my daughter makes a living in the water industry. We are a family that’s awash in all things water and value it perhaps more than many.  But, we should all value water, as all human cells and organs need it to function properly. Niagara Water might be what she sells, but the other Niagara, as in Niagara Falls, has quite a bit of power itself.  The Falls aren’t just spectacular to look at and popular tourist destinations; they are real power powerhouses, providing electricity to much of New York State and parts of Canada, including enough power for nearly 4 million homes. So yes, water is powerful and the benefits of it are oh-so-big as well, including:

 

 

  • It lubricates our joints. Cartilage contains around 80 percent water and long-term dehydration reduces the joints’ shock-absorbing ability, leading to joint pain.
  • By drinking water instead of sugary drinks, we can prevent tooth decay.
  • It boosts skin health, which when dehydrated, can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
  • It cushions the brain and if dehydrated, our brain structure and functioning abilities are affected. Prolonged dehydration can lead to problems with thinking and reasoning.
  • It regulates our body temperature through sweat as we heat up and it evaporates to cool us down, all beneficial during exercise.
  • Our digestive system depends on it and the bowel needs it to work properly. If you don’t drink enough water, you may suffer from digestive problems, constipation, an acidic stomach, heartburn, and stomach ulcers. It goes without saying that water is needed to flush out urine and feces.
  • Our lungs and airways need it as water loss can worsen asthma and allergies.
  • It helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and a lack of it can cause the blood to become thicker, resulting in increased blood pressure.
  • It makes minerals and nutrients dissolve faster and better, thereby reaching the parts of our bodies they are intended to benefit.
  • It prevents kidney damage as kidneys regulate fluid in the body. Insufficient water can lead to kidney stones and other problems.
  • It is beneficial in weight loss by preventing overeating and creating a sense of fullness.

 

 

So, there’s the 411 on the bodily benefits of water, but what great imagery water provides the mind and spirit as well. Close your eyes and imagine ocean waves crashing on shore, rain hitting the roof, or the gurgling of a river or stream. And how refreshing it is to take a dip into a pool, lake, or ocean? I also can’t help but think of my annual “Polar Plunge” on New Year’s Day. The wetness we feel is so invigorating but ultimately we do dry off.

 

 

Sometimes our hearts run dry as well, so maybe while we’re all taking more time to wash our hands, we should also take more time to drink in faith and let it overflow into this crazy and chaotic world. Sounds like a refreshing idea to me.

 

 

 

 

Behind Every Great Woman is Herself March 8, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:17 pm

Happy International Women’s Day! If you didn’t know this was the day to celebrate women around the world, then you obviously haven’t been online or watched any TV because it is everywhere. I’m here to celebrate women right along with the masses, but exactly who and what are we celebrating?

 

 

Are we celebrating the fact that in the U.S. women have more rights and privileges than many other worldwide and that we are pretty doggone blessed?

 

Are we celebrating the #metoo movement and the fact that the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are behind bars?

 

Are we celebrating all those women before us who paved the way and succeeded on levels many of us only dream about?

 

Are we celebrating unborn women?

 

Are we celebrating single moms?

 

And, are we going to make today a day of true celebrating or are we going to whine about not the good, but the bad and the ugly?

 

I’m choosing the former.

 

 

 

I posted the above pic on Instagram earlier today as my weekly “Sunday gram” and was shocked to learn later that it is IWD. Divine intervention? I think so.

 

So let’s talk briefly about Mary and women in the Bible since this blog is running on a Sunday and since…well, just because. As the mother of Jesus, Mary saw it all. She believed, she obeyed, she rejoiced, and she suffered greatly. She is in a way, all moms. But she wasn’t alone in the Bible. Ruth was notoriously faithful and loyal while Esther was known for her bold spirit. Jesus himself included many women in his teachings and preachings, allowed many a female in his inner circle, and even forgave an adulterer. And, let’s not forget that the first witnesses to the Resurrection were women. Yes, as a Catholic I’m fully aware of the criticism that women can’t be priests, but it’s something I can’t control and something I just accept with a faithful heart.

 

 

What defines a true strong woman is endlessly debated and actually quite personal. Is it someone who is career driven and speaks her mind? Could be. Is it a stay-at-home mom who relishes her role as keeper of the fam? Could be too. Is it a woman who loves motorcycles but happens to wear a helmet made of mirror sequence? You bet! In short, it’s really a woman who makes sound choices based on her beliefs and morals and lives a respectable life that benefits both her and those she comes in contact with.

 

 

I can’t write this blog without bringing up a few controversial topics though so here goes. First is the term “feminist.” For me, it has such a one-sided and almost confrontational connotation that I don’t and can’t attach it to what benefits women as a whole. Next, the #metoo movement. Yes, I’m all for women not having to put up with any harassment in the workplace but I also question all those women who for years stayed silent (as many of their careers boomed I might add) about the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner. Why would such a supposed strong woman like Huma Abedin stay with Weiner for years despite his obvious flaws? Perhaps we need look no further than her former boss, Hillary Clinton, who was similarly repeatedly and publicly humiliated but did the exact same thing. I don’t get it and never will. And before you call the equal sides police, I also don’t appreciate many of President Trump’s past comments about women or anyone who thinks the right female should not ever be president.

 

 

Along these same lines and something that might make some of you stop reading right here, is the fact that I admire and respect the strong and accomplished Ivanka Trump. I’ve liked her for years and long before her dad was president. I liked that she, despite being born into the family she was, was never in the tabloids partying with the likes of her age contemporaries like Paris Hilton. Instead, she was graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s in economics from none other than The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and creating a business of her own. I’ll never forget reading that during a major international leadership conference, a highly accomplished attendee was asked who impressed him the most and he said Ivanka, in that he had never witnessed such impressive negotiating skills. Hate her politics and hate her dad, but c’mon ladies, admit she’s one smart and strong cookie. And not that it matters, but how stylish is she too? As they say, you can’t argue with good kids.

 

 

Which brings me to Taylor Swift, who is not a Trump fan and probably not a fan of his daughter either but who IMHO is a strong and talented woman. I’m not a fan of everything she says or does, but I am a fan of her musical talents and the fact that she famously writes songs about her weaknesses and brokenness. I especially liked an interview I saw with her on “CBS Sunday Morning” during which she commented on the different social expectations of men and women. “When men think something out, it’s called being strategic but when women think something out, it’s called calculating. Men are said to react but women are often considered overreacting.” Bingo Ms. Swift. Nicely said.

 

Sports are another arena where strong women often prevail. I love sports and I love a good competitor but I don’t like or respect any athlete or team member that bashes the very country they play for or insult anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I love that females are today found on football sidelines, press boxes, and officiating crews, but I don’t respect two legit and talented singers literally going low and performing a virtual soft-porn show during the biggest football game’s halftime show.  If you want to be treated like a lady or respected, don’t cry when you go down a disrespectful road and discover that you are merely a sex object. And don’t even get me started about Hollywood.

 

 

Instead, maybe be less tease and more Tylene Wilson. Who, you ask? Tylene was a woman in 1940’s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, broke tradition and became a successful female football coach during the war. She’s the subject of Marjorie Herrera Lewis’ fabulous book “When The Men Were Gone” and I highly recommend it.  (Herrera Lewis herself is a strong and impressive woman who has covered sports her whole professional life, even before it was a commonplace and has also coached.) Another book about a strong woman I highly recommend is “In Order to Live” by Yeonmi Park. Maybe read it before you go out and march to complain about how bad you think we have it in America. Hashtag eye opening.

 

 

I’ve always loved that quote and it will forever remind me of one of the strongest women I know, my long-time friend Rosie. We vowed to follow the quote’s advice as we raised our daughters and I’m proud to say we both can pat ourselves on the back for doing so. My name is Carla and I’m the proud mom of a strong girl. From day one she was resilient and formidable, and I remember reading the book “The Strong Willed Child” cover-to-cover and over and over.  I read with eyes wide open in that I didn’t want to suppress her strength and stubbornness because I knew they would serve her well down the road, but I also knew I needed to direct them in a healthy way. Yes, be strong, but be smart and a be a lady too. If you don’t act like a lady, please don’t expect any man to treat you as one, right? Respect is earned, not a given. Thankfully today she is flourishing in a male-dominated world and loves football but she’s also a lover of all things fashion and feminine.  It’s a balance we might all strive to perfect.

 

 

Strong women can indeed be frilly and feminine and like all things glittery and glam as they make their way to  boardrooms, job sites, or kitchens. Wear that sparkle if you want ladies and wear it with confidence.

 

 

One shining example of this is none other than Deshauna Barber who is a former Army Reservist and Miss USA 2016. Talk about balance and the best of both worlds! Some women despise beauty pageants and consider them demeaning, but please don’t tell that to the thousands of young women who have earned scholarship money through them and thousands of others who just like them. Let them like them.

 

 

And, hold onto your boot straps, but today’s Barbies are also examples of everything a woman can be. Yes, they were originally thin and so unrealistic, but have you walked down a Barbie store aisle lately? These girls now come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and are everything from chefs to a scientists. If you want a small glimpse of the progress of women, check out Barbies. She’s morped into a real doll!

 

 

We as women need to respect all sides of womanhood and build each other up, not judge, try to change each other, or tear each other down. We should also stop trying to be so perfect. No one is perfect. I for one can have the mouth of a sailor and be a bit critical…especially of myself. We also need to maybe not take ourselves so seriously and laugh more. I for one admire a woman with a sense of humor as much as I do a woman with a big bank account or powerful job. Even one of the most powerful women in the world, Queen Elizabeth, is said to possess quite the wit, and with the pressure she’s lived under for nearly 70 years, that is one crowning achievement!

 

 

Laugh away ladies, but never forget that it’s also okay to cry. Strong women can be sad and there’s nothing sad about that. Sometimes it’s the challenges in life that make it interesting and the overcoming of them that makes it meaningful. In the end, all those tears and frustrations hopefully also make us wiser, more grateful, and stronger.

 

 

So as we celebrate women today, let’s consider what we’re celebrating and what we want to work toward. Yes, we all want to succeed but maybe we need to stop screaming along the way. News flash ladies: none of us are entitled to anything so work away but maybe let that success of yours be the noise others hear. Let’s also today tip our hats and tip our crowns to all the women out there who are living their lives to the fullest in a true and tasteful way as they build and improve themselves, help and nurture others, and both laugh and cry while they do it.

 

 

 

 

 

You Name It March 2, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:33 pm

Can you imagine? Wouldn’t THAT be great?! But lo, it’s just an Uber driver who happens to have a very special name. So, what’s in a name?

 

Our names are everything but do you like your name? Would you pick it today if you had a choice or would you change it to something else? I don’t love my name Carla, I probably wouldn’t pick it today, but I don’t hate it. It’s just kinda meh to me and screams Baby Boomer. I’ve always loved the names Nicole, Jessica, and Spencer (yes, after sweet Lady Diana Spencer) and might opt for one of them, but it’s kinda hard to say. After all, it’s your name!

 

 

One name I often use, especially when at Starbucks, is Natasha. Don’t know why other than I’ve long been fascinated with Russia and the former Soviet Union and long before the Dems were.  Starbucks is one place you can play around with names as you can tell them your name is anything (as long as it’s not offensive) and you get to be that person for the moment they call out that your non-fat venti latte is ready. It’s actually quite fun. Try it!

 

I find it so interesting that names tend to be generational. Today’s kids names (and I speak from experience being that I teach three-year-olds) tend to be either very traditional (Madeline, Natalie, Emily, Jack, Victoria, Gabriel) or anything but (Lennon, Grayson, Colton). Popular with today’s parents also seem to be first names that could also be last names like Maxwell, Carson, Gentry, Connelly, and Cooper as well as gender-neutral names like Riley, Logan, Dylan, and Ryan.

 

The parents of these little bundles of joy are most often Millennials who are, give or take a birth year or two, my daughter’s age. Hers was the age of Megans and Allisons, Ethans and Evans, Rachels and Lindsays, Caitlyns and Laurens, Matthews and Brians, and a whole lot of boys name Lucas and girls named Grace.

 

The last one has been around for decades and is quite cross-generational, much like Sarah and Nicolas, both popular Baby Boomer names too. In many ways, you can tell the age someone is simply by their name. My own Baby Boomer generation loved the names Susan, Karen, Lisa, Linda, Donna, Cindy, and Debra for girls and David, Steven, Mark, Christopher, and James for boys. In some ways, many of these more classic names are making a comeback but I’m not sure we’ll ever see many Mildreds or Walters but I do know a young Oliver and Molly.

 

 

Millennials pay close attention and put tons of thought into their kids’ names. I’ll never forget my nephew Michael saying “that’s such a Millennial name” when my daughter told him she was dating a boy named Tucker. Bingo. He was so spot on. Michael’s mom put some thought into his name, albeit a different kind. She is my sister and her name is Coral; a beautiful name but one that is forever misspelled and miscalled as Cora or Carol. When naming her two boys, she kept it simple for them by choosing Michael and Andrew. Smart girl.

 

My own daughter’s name also has an interesting story. Being that my husband quickly nixed Spencer as a name for a boy or a girl, we decided Kelly for a girl and Matthew for a boy. Kelly got punted however when his beloved Buffalo Bills and Quarterback Jim Kelly lost one of their four consecutive Super Bowls that January and he quickly said “pick another name.” I pleaded and reminded him we didn’t chose the name in honor of Mr. Kelly, who BTW has turned out to be one great human and would have made a great namesake, but to no avail. Plan B was needed and Billie was not an option!

 

She ended up being named for an equally great human, former LPGA winner Kristi Albers, who is a dear friend of ours. The year was 1993 and Kristi had yet to win a tour event so we casually mentioned to her that if we had a girl and if she won a tournament before, we’d use her name somehow. Mere days before our daughter was born, Kristi won the prestigious Sprint Classic and soon after our daughter Kristen was born. I still love telling the story and I love that Kristen’s middle name is my maiden name, Luna, which BTW is a trending first name.

 

 

So what are today’s most popular baby names? Most lists come from the Social Security Administration and Nameberry, a site for researching baby names that tracks users’ searches. According to the site, the hottest current names are Austin, Alva, Acacius, Tate, and Diego for boys and Adah, Reese, Mika, Paisley, and Amina for girls. Ellis, Phoenix, Remy, Marlowe, and Shea are listed as the most popular unisex names.

 

The SSA releases a list of the most popular baby names from the previous year, with the most recent numbers coming from 2018. So, drum roll please…

 

It’s fun to look at trends in names, with some of the most prevalent being short and sweet ones like Ace and Ella; girls’ names that aren’t traditional girls’ names like Stevie, Tyler, and Billie; pastel and jewel tone names like Gray, Olive, and Sage; using nicknames as full names like Dani, Tori, and Charlie; names that are places like Paris and Austin; and the continued obsession with unisex names. If I had to choose one name in each of these trending categories, they would be Faith for a short and sweet name, Wynn for a non-traditional girl name, Sage for the next category, and “Winnie” as a nickname for Windsor, which could qualify as a place too.

 

 

Even in the midst of unisex and unusual names, it’s somewhat comforting that parents can’t totally name their children anything they want. Most states have character limit laws regarding the number of letters for first, middle, and last names as well as laws forbidding derogatory or obscene monikers. In addition, there are also laws requiring names be made up of only characters from the English alphabet and spelled using a standard keyboard. It’s also not uncommon for states to prohibit foreign characters or symbols in American-born babies. The latter, however, is not the case in South Carolina where you can name your Kate “K8” or your Mike “M!ke” as symbols are allowed. I’ve also previously heard that North Dakota prohibits parents from naming a child a numeral while in Pennsylvania a baby (or adult) can’t have a one-letter last name.

 

Somewhat surprising is the fact the United States is probably one of the most flexible countries regarding offspring naming laws. Many countries, including France, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and a host of others have nationalized lists of accepted names and preapproved names and if a parent seeks to venture off said list, they need to pay a fee and request approval.

 

Japan is another country with some strict naming laws in that all babies except for royals must have a name and a surname that are easy to read in Japanese. Foreign names that can’t be translated into Japanese are not accepted and names that don’t have adequate meanings for children are not allowed. Similarly in Portugal, parents must choose names for their children that are of Portuguese origin with the exception of Biblical or Christian names and the gender of the name must be easy to understand, which is also the case in many other countries.

 

 

I recommend a few other things be considered when choosing your child’s name, including what their initials and monogram will be. A girl named Anna Olivia Hendricks probably won’t like her “AHO” monogram on jewelry, pillowcases, and bags and a boy named Daniel Kent Iglesias will most likely frown upon his “DIK” initials. Think of nicknames too. For example, in a book I just started reading, Richard Russo’s “Bridges of Sighs,” the lead character’s name is Louis Charles Lynch. While taking attendance the first day of kindergarten his teacher called out “Lou C.” and the nickname “Lucy” stuck for the remainder of his life. And in a related and funny story, to this day my husband is called “Haven” by his college buddies because during a class roll call his elderly professor had a hard time deciphering my hubby’s bad handwriting of “Steven” and thought it said “Haven.”  So, if you don’t like the nickname Liz, don’t name your daughter Elizabeth and if you’d prefer your son not be called Billy steer clear of William.

 

In the end, I would advise moms and dads everywhere to follow their hearts and heads when naming their offspring and to keep in mind the consequences your personal preferences and possible harebrained ideas may cause for your little one. So instead of naming your child something you might regret down the road, simply use those names the next time you’re in Starbucks. Trust me, no one there will care.