Beyond Words

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

Leap of Faith? February 29, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:57 pm

Happy Intercalary Day! Say what? That’s actually just a fancy way of saying Happy Leap Day, which is today, February 29. But you already knew that, right?


But, did you know a non-leap year is called a common year and has 365 days while a leap year has 366? Okay, you knew that too. Did you know, though, that a leap year occurs every four years? Okay fine, you’re on top of that too. But, do you know why? Gotcha? Maybe?


Well, a leap year happens in order to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, which is the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun. The calendar we use is called the Gregorian calendar and was put into place by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. On this calendar, every year divisible by four has an extra day and is called a “Leap Year.” Century years are the exception to the four year rule though, as they must be divisible by 400 to be Leap Years.  This is why the year 2000 was a Leap Year but 1900 wasn’t and why 2400 will be one but not 2100.


But what’s in the name “leap?”


The name is thought to come from the fact that, while a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, the day of the week in the 12 months following a Leap Year will advance two days, thus “leaping” over one of the days.


But why always in February?


Some historians credit Julius Caesar way back when he took power and reconfigured the then Roman calendar. He aligned the length of a year with the sun, giving each year 365 days and for reasons unknown he left February at 28 days. Others say the month was selected kinda randomly and it just stuck.


Okay, so what happens if you’re born on a Leap Day?


Codes vary state-by-state as to when a leap baby or “leapling” celebrates his or her birthday, but most consider March 1 as the day. Interestingly, there is a 1 in 1,500 chance of being born on a leap day and babies born on one are thought to have special talents according to astrologers.


Other myths and legends about a Leap Year and Leap Day in particular include the Irish “Bachelor’s Day” legend that St. Brigid opened up the gates for women to propose marriage to men on a Leap Day after she struck a deal with St. Patrick as a way to balance the traditional roles of men and women in society, much like a leap day adds balance to the calendar. Boy was she a woman ahead of her time! This tradition is still occasionally observed in England but in neighboring Scotland February 29 is often considered as unlucky as Friday the 13th.


Coincidentally, Leap Years almost always coincide with U.S. election years, as is the case this year, and often times with Olympic years as well. The next three leap years will be 2024, 2028, and 2032.


If you’re looking for a way to celebrate today’s Leap Day, what better way than with the official Leap Day Cocktail? Invented by bartender Harry Craddock of London’s tony Savoy Hotel in 1928, it is considered a martini-like drink and is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any cocktail ever mixed according to the “Savoy Cocktail Book.”  Here is the original recipe:


Craddock’s Leap Day Cocktail

1 dash lemon juice
2/3 gin
1/6 Grand Marnier
1/6 sweet vermouth

Shake, serve, garnish with a lemon peel.


Enjoy and Happy Leap Day!



Just Give It Up February 24, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:53 pm

As many of you know, Lent starts this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. That means tomorrow’s “Fat Tuesday” is unofficially the last day to party, parade, and partake in all things pointless. Then on Wednesday, all beads and bets are off and we start our 40 days of fasting, praying, and giving…both the giving of and the giving up.



A few days ago a friend posted an interesting twist on the concept of giving something up courtesy the brilliant and inspiring Father Mike Schmitz. Father Mike suggests giving up something “necessary” rather than something arbitrary. In other words, rather than fast from the arbitrary soda or candy, give up something you necessarily should or something that’s hard to say no to. This could be anything from the constant streaming of social media, smoking, or anything that has a hold on you or that you’re attached to but really shouldn’t be. Yeah it’s easy to give up oranges for Lent, but is that really demonstrating self-denial? Instead, how about snacks between meals or shopping online? On the flip-side, much like New Year’s Resolutions, don’t vow to give up something that is the hardest thing ever per se like “I’m going to clean, exercise, and eat healthy every day during Lent.” Lastly, sometimes it’s better to do something rather than not do something. Do more walking. Give more time or money.


But, I digress from the main reason for writing today.



A week or so ago I was reading my daily meditations and was stunned that they both dealt with being yourself and that dirty little thing called comparison. Ironically I read them soon after I returned from my annual college girls trip; a trip we’ve done once-a-year for 17 years running and that I share with four fabulous and fabulously funny and incredible women. Each time I see them I feel blessed to be counted among such an amazing group of girls. Sometimes I ask myself “why me?” or more importantly, “how me?” Then I remind myself that each of us brings something equally important and vital to the trip table, including me. Still, who doesn’t compare themselves and their lives to those we admire and adore?


So with that in mind, what better thing (among many) to work on giving up for Lent then comparing ourselves to others?




As the passage I read started with, we live in a copycat society in which we often set our sights on being like so-and-so or the next so-and-so as the classic above photo from days gone by of Sophia Lauren and Jayne Mansfield so perfectly depicts. Even someone as beautiful, talented, and lauded as Ms. Lauren fell victim to comparing and contrasting. Someone needed to tell her….and tell all of us…that we all need to just walk our walk, talk our talk, and build our success on authenticity not duplicity. God created each one of us as an original so maybe it’s time we stop trying to be imitations.


There’s nothing wrong with having role models, goals, and ambitions, but when those turn into envy or “I’m not good enough” thoughts, it’s time to re-evaluate. There will always be someone smarter, prettier, richer, and whatever more than you. News flash all you perfect beings: you aren’t perfect. No one is.


We also live in a competitive society however, so if you must compare, why not compare yourself to others who are generous, kind, honest, hard-working, and faith-filled? Rather than thriving on being perfect or complimented, strive to be respected and valued.



Likening ourselves to others is actually so prevalent (thank you social media) that Harvard professor Thomas J. DeLong notes a disturbing trend he calls “comparison obsession.” His analysis shows that everyone from doctors and lawyers to school kids and senior citizens are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. And not in a good way.


He goes on to say that when you define success based on external rather than internal criteria, you diminish your satisfaction and contentment. Makes sense, right? As long as your life is ruled by keeping up you will probably never keep the inner peace.



Scripture itself warns us of this when it cautions to not become so proud that you look down on others or to become jealous and covet what others have. Envy, after all, is one of the seven deadly sins as it makes us blind to the goodness of God in our lives because we are consumed with what we don’t have. It can also result in sorrow and sadness and even sometimes hate and depression. When we live in a constant state of comparison and envy, we fail to see what God has given us and we might even start to believe He is unfair.  But, who can forget that King Saul tried to dress David up as something he wasn’t before he took on Goliath. David stayed true to himself and the rest is biblical history.



So for the upcoming 40 days of Lent, let’s give up comparing ourselves and our lives to those of others and instead count our blessings and remind ourselves to stay authentic, that we are all uniquely made, and are indeed good enough to just bloom.



Friends and Enemies February 23, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:12 pm

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Sage advice, right?


“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  We’ve all heard that saying too, right? Well in today’s gospel reading its front and center and worth looking at a little closer through the eyes of love.


In the reading from Matthew 5:38, Jesus does indeed utter those words but immediately after says to “offer no resistance to one who is evil” and “when one strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.”


Yeah right Jesus, we’re going to turn the other cheek and allow someone to not only slap us silly once, but slap us twice. Isn’t there also the ole adage “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?”


And yet, that is the command is what it is and is summed up simply as “love your enemies.”



I recently came across something that gave me a whole new and different way of looking at this seemingly difficult task. It suggested that when confronted with an enemy or just merely someone who has not been nice to you, to think about how you would go about things if you and that person were seated next to each other at a dinner table and couldn’t leave. How would the conversation go? Would you confront that person? Ignore them? Forgive them? Food for thought, right?



All we need do is turn on the television to witness swaths of enemies going at it. The right and the left. The rich and the poor. The white and the black. The east and the west.  Simple agreement on anything, whether that something may benefit all, is disturbingly near non-existent so an actual love between the factions? Highly unlikely it appears.


But, we are asked to do just that: actually love our enemies. Not just tolerate or accept them, but love them. Yikes! (Funny how this pops up right after Valentine’s Day.) Think about it though and perhaps reverse the scenario. Say someone considers you their enemy but instead of treating you as such and confirming the two of your “enemy-ness,” they treat you with love and kindness. Yes, at first you’d probably think it was all for show or flat out fake, but it would also confuse you and maybe, just maybe remove the negative energy the hatred has been breeding.



In marital arts, this concept is called “aikido,” which is basically absorbing the aggressive and negative energy of your opponent until it is rendered useless. You can implement this strategy in your everyday life by turning your enemy’s negativity back on him and respond to his insults with gratitude or better yet, a compliment.


American biblical scholar and theologian Walter Wink agrees with this idea. He points out that it has nothing to do with passivity in the face of evil but rather, the embodiment of a provocative and nonviolent way of conquering evil through love.


This is exactly what Jesus did when, upon being hung on the cross said, “Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing.” If He can love His enemies with His dying breaths and at the hands of those who sentenced him to an unjustly death, can’t we do the same? That enemy is waiting for you at the dinner table.




Valentine Would Have Loved It February 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:01 pm

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but shouldn’t its message of love stick around all year? Long after the roses have died, the cards have been tossed or saved, and candies have been eaten, the love behind them should not similarly disappear. That’s how St. Valentine would have wanted it and that’s how he lived. Yes, there was a real man really named Valentine and maybe it’s time to learn about him and why we even have a Valentine’s Day. Consider this blog my way of keeping his message of love alive long past February 14.



Valentine was a third century priest in third century Rome. (Call me crazy but it’s my personal opinion that it’s quite fitting that the Saint of Love comes from Italy!) During that time, Claudius II was emperor and at some point decided that single men made better soldiers than those who were married. He outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military but Valentine strongly believed people should get married and thought the decree was unfair so he continued to secretly marry young couples. When Claudius found out about this, he sentenced Valentine to prison.


While imprisoned, Valentine was relentlessly asked to renounce his actions and his faith but he refused. Sent to another prison, Valentine is said to have written little messages to family and friends to let them know he was well and that he loved them. He was also befriended by a guard whose daughter was blind. Valentine would preach to and pray with the guard, who had asked Valentine to heal his daughter’s sight. It is said that just days before his execution, Valentine prayed over the girl, touched her eyes, and she regained her eyesight. Word traveled fast, and upon hearing about the miracle, many turned to Christianity. Claudius was not amused or impressed and quickly condemned Valentine to death. The night before his execution, Valentine wrote to the young girl and signed it, “From your Valentine.” The phrase became popular among lovers even back then, and today is still used on cards everywhere. Stoned and beheaded on February 14, 269, Valentine was buried near Rome and a Basilica was erected in his honor.


Not only is Valentine’s Day a holiday in the U.S., it’s celebrated worldwide. In Japan, chocolate is considered even more sacred and “valentine-ish” than even stateside while in Denmark flowers are also given to loved ones on the holiday. In both Italy and Germany it’s strictly an adult and “lovers only” holiday while Mexico officially calls it the “Day of Love and Friendship.” St. Valentine is considered the Patron Saint of Spring in Slovenia but perhaps the holiday is celebrated in the most grandest of ways in France. In Paris, known as the “City of Love,” couples used to attach locks on the Pont des Arts Bridge and throw keys into the River Seine on Valentine’s Day, but the practice was halted due to the weight of the locks and their potential damage to the historic bridge.  The French village of St. Valentin is decked in flowers on Valentine’s Day and is a popular destination for weddings, vow renewals, and engagements. How lovely would that be?!


St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of love, young people, and happy marriages, which makes me happy being that I was married a day later on February 15. Considering the fact that Valentine saw to it that couples were united in marriage, it makes perfect sense that the holiday of love is named after him. He would have loved it!


Valentine’s favorite words were “Love one another as I have loved you” and I’m thinking they’re pretty good words for all of us to live by. On Valentine’s Day and every day.


Winging It February 1, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:00 am


Super Bowl Sunday is upon us tomorrow and I, along with millions of others, will be eating my share of wings. Chicken wings that is. Buffalo chicken wings.  As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that Americans will eat a record 1.4 billion of tasty wings this weekend. But what are they exactly? And I mean exactly?  Yes, you will find teriyaki, BBQ, and a host of other flavored chicken wing options, but there’s really only one real wing: The Buffalo Chicken Wing. When made right, they are uh-mazing and they have an interesting history as I learned many years ago from my Buffalo born and raised husband.



No, Buffalo wings aren’t buffalo meat (buffalos don’t have wings), and no, Chili’s didn’t invent the wing nor did Pluckers or Buffalo Wild Wings. That honor belongs to Frank and Teressa Bellissimo. Here’s the story: Frank and Teressa established The Anchor Bar and Grill in downtown Buffalo, NY back in 1935 and had quite the popular neighborhood watering hole. But, it wasn’t until 1964 that the hole-in-the-wall became historic.


It was on a Friday night in 1964 that their son Dominic and a group of friends told mamma Bellissimo they wanted a late night snack. Teressa looked around and saw some left over chicken wings, which were usually tossed or reserved for stocks or soups. Knowing she needed something fast and easy, she deep fried the wings and then tossed them in a cayenne hot sauce. She served them with celery stalks and bleu cheese dressing because she also had extras of them lying around and the rest, as they say, is history.



Teressa’s wings were a hit that night and it didn’t take long for word to spread that the Anchor Bar had a great new dish. Today, the original restaurant at the corner of Main and North Streets is considered the birthplace of wings and still serves up its famous fingerlings, as do restaurants around the world.


I will say however, that nowhere in the world are the wings as good as what you get in Western New York. And I say “wings,” not “chicken wings” or “Buffalo wings,” just “wings,” as that’s what they’re called by locals. Finding them elsewhere is a bit like looking for cheesesteaks in Oregon, Tex-Mex in Maryland, or gumbo in Iowa. They just aren’t comparable or even close to the real deals.


Wings in Buffalo are so delicious that I truly can eat a dozen of them all by myself. They are most often accompanied by drums and are big, crispy, never greasy or runny, and just the right amount of spicy. If you want them hot, you can but be careful, as your mouth will be on fire. My husband says he remembers eating wings so hot that he’d run outside and put his lips in the snow. I don’t know if that’s totally true but it makes for a great story!



Deep-fried chicken wings are nothing culinary new and have been a southern staple for years, but most of those wings are breaded. Buffalo chicken wings are never breaded. You simply fry them up and then then coat them with a level of hot sauce to your choosing. Simple, classic, and delicious. And please, no ranch dressing on the side. Bleu cheese only is the way to go.



No trip to Buffalo is complete without a stop at the Anchor Bar but if you can’t make it to the original location, not to worry, there’s one right inside the Buffalo airport. So, as you make your way out of the airport on your way to perhaps Niagara Falls, be sure to stop and get you some wings before heading out.



Wings are so sacred in the Buffalo area, that friends and family actually argue over which neighborhood spot has the best ones. The most popular one in my husband’s hometown village of East Aurora (where Mr. Fisher and Mr. Price started Fisher-Price toys in their garage, where America’s Arts and Crafts movement began more than a century ago with the original Roycrofters and thinker Elbert Hubbard, and home of The Millard Fillmore House that was once the residence of the 13th president of the United States), called the Bar-Bill Tavern takes no reservations, accepts only cash, and only recently began offering take-out wings. It also always makes local and national “Best Buffalo Wings” lists.


In 1977 the city of Buffalo issued an official proclamation celebrating the Anchor Bar and its owners and declared July 29, 1977 “Chicken Wing Day.” Frank Bellissimo died in 1980 at the age of 84 and Teressa died a year later in her apartment above the bar. They both passed at the age of 84. Dominic, the son whose late night cravings resulted in his mom’s famous wings, later owned the restaurant. He died in 1991 and in 1999 the franchising of Anchor Bar restaurants was established. An Anchor Bar bottled sauce line launched in 1999 and today can be found in more than 3,000 retailers. The world-famous brand was even included in a “Simpsons” episode.


I’m not quite sure how wings became so entwined with football watch parties but maybe it’s because they are a popular bar food, they are a filling finger food, and they are so dang good.


So there you have it, the story behind those wings you’ll be munching on during the Super Bowl and above you have Teressa Bellisimo’s original recipe. Now you know they’re not only yummy but truly a beautiful thing. They are bellissimo!





The Friend Zone January 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:14 pm


A friend of mine posted an article recently that I found very interesting and somewhat surprising. Written by Greg Trimble, the article discussed “The Most Dangerous Temptation That Faces Our Youth.” I’m sure right now you are going through a list of bad influences, right? I did the same thing and I bet you came up with a similar list. But, does that list include the “what has more influence over you and your kids than anything else”: friends?


Yep, turns out social media, drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, broken families, guns and violence, and the likes don’t have the power over us that our friends do. The success your child has in school is not so dependent on what classes they take, what teachers they have, what school they attend, or even your influence at home but more so on those they closely associate with, even at a young age. In fact, according to the article, the universal common denominator that dictates the course of our lives comes down to the people we hang out with on a consistent basis. They not only impact our choices, but our social calendars, what we eat, what we wear, and what we do for a living.



This could be our chosen group of friends, a team we are on, or girlfriend and boyfriend. In short, the friends you choose are the catalyst of your own happiness and destruction and the friends your kids choose will more than likely dictate the path they’ll go down in life. No one, regardless of how strong or morally upright you think you are, can stand up to the daily influences of the people you hang around the most. Friends, come to find out, especially in our youth, have a more powerful influence over us than anything else. Makes you think, right?



It made me think back to friends choices I’ve made throughout my life. As a little girl growing up in a small town, my friends were pretty much my neighbors. If you lived near me, we were friends. As I ventured into junior high and high school however, I got to make choices regarding friends and I’m here to say they weren’t always the best choices. I constantly heard my mom and dad telling me they didn’t really care for so-and-so and asking me why I didn’t instead hang out with fill-in-the-blank with a “nice” girl. As much as I fought them and thought I knew all, in the end, they were right.



I ended up getting my friends act together in college and to this day, I call it a God thing. I showed up at the University of Oklahoma in 501 Levis and a flannel shirt only to find my suite and roommates decked in Polo, Izod, and Penny Loafers. It was a scary scene of preppy meets mountain mamma but I loved it. I quickly learned to love school and love learning too. You could party hard (it was the ‘80s after all) but you had to study hard too. Before I knew it, this former barely passing high school classes girl was on the Dean’s List. People often wonder why I love OU so much and this is one of the main reasons. It saved my life in many ways by giving me good friends….both in values and morals and in loyalty and lifelong friensdships.



It could have easily all gone wrong had I met and made the “wrong” friends. We probably all know someone who falls in this category. The girl or boy who seemed to have it all but ultimately finds trouble and heartache. Nine times out of 10 it’s probably due to who they hang out with. We often ask “what went wrong with Julie?” and wonder where we as parents went wrong or where Julie went wrong. We tend to blame drugs, laziness, promiscuity and the likes but news flash: if their friends weren’t into any or all of those, they probably wouldn’t be either.



So what can parents do? Yes, try to steer them in the right direction and to avoid the icky and filthy pitfalls that are everywhere, but also pay close attention to their friends. Bad friends mean bad choices. It’s that simple. Trimble also says it’s important to teach them respect, practice faith, keep their clothes on and their language clean, and have a strong work ethic. If the friends they hang out with follow these same guidelines, they most likely will too.



It’s not so much social media we should worry about or movies and music. It’s friends…both those we have on “reality” TV and in real life. If you choose good friends, you’ll probably stay clear of bad movies, TV shows, and music but if you take part in any or all of those, they too become your “friends” and you will probably start acting, talking, and dressing like them. We tend to compare ourselves to these fictional friends and to real friends as well. That’s why your pals can heavily influence your self-esteem as we compare ourselves to the group or clique we are in and the one we wish we were in.


In today’s cyber-focused world, society of strangers, and internet bullying, you kids will most likely be exposed to evil and become caught up in it all. We have hundreds of “friends” online but there loneliness prevails due to the shallowness of all this friendom. Relationships, specifically friendships, are becoming more and more shallow and less meaningful and authentic.



Encourage your kids to join a club, be on a team, or join a group like band. Studies show these encourage kids to want to go to school and be proud of something. It also prevents idle time and boredom, both of which often result in trouble. Playing on a team or being in the band means you don’t have time to mess around. It also means you learn teamwork, the value of practice and hard work, learn to take direction from someone other than your parents, and strive to be good at something with your friends, who are often right there by your side.


The internet and our social groups influence how we dress as well. Style consultant and author Sherrie Mathieson says that when it comes to your clothes, whatever style you’re seeing on a daily basis is the one you will more than likely choose for yourself.


But it’s not just youth that is influenced by friends; we all are. In his “Guardrails” talks and written works, Andy Stanley reminds us that friends influence the direction and quality of our lives regardless of our age. Sadly, he says people often drop their guard around those they are comfortable with and who accept them and that’s precisely when and why we are easily influenced by them in both good and bad ways. He suggests putting up “guardrails” to protect us from dangers and bad choices. Ultimately, if you surround yourself with wise and good people you too will be wise and good. Just yesterday “Happiness Project” author Gretchen Rubin posted on this subject, saying strong relationships make it far more likely that we will take joy in life, lengthen life, boost immunity, and reduces the risk of depression.


When choosing your squad, you are basically making a monumental decision that will influence so much of your life. It may sound cliché, but choose your friends wisely. And think quality, not quantity as it’s said we’re the sum total of the five people we hang out with the most. It only takes one bad egg to steer someone in a bad direction.


In support of this are Nicholas Chirtakis’ TED talks during which he addresses research that shows non-drinkers who spend time with drinkers significantly increase their chances of becoming drinkers, a fact that holds true with obesity, violence, immoral activity, drug abuse, and even risk divorce.


Photo courtesy libbyvandploeg

But let’s change the focus a bit and look at the positive ways our tribes influence us. Yes, they are there with a shoulder to cry on, a laugh to share, and overall support and respect, but they also influence everything from our financial achievements to career performance. Looking at your friends you might be thinking, “No way does he or she have that much power over me,” but they do.


According to Kelly Kearsley of, friends bolster our self-control by helping us avoid making bad choices and resisting temptations and they impact us in a number of ways, including:


They motivate us to work harder.  Students who hang out with friends who get good grades improved their own performance and grades and same with co-workers. In short, if you want to improve your lot in life, hang out with people who are already there.


When it comes to our health, friends can either make us healthier or unhealthier, including our eating habits, which are heavily influenced by those we consistently associate with. In fact, your chances of becoming obese increase 57 percent if you have a friend who is obese. Consider this, you go out to eat with friends and have every intention of ordering something healthy but as you see them order burgers and pizza, you go along those lines. The opposite holds true too. If you sat down to eat and were craving fried chicken but your buddies all ordered grilled chicken, chances are you’d follow suit. It’s the same situation with exercise. Having friends to exercise with improves a person’s health and if your friends aren’t physically active, you probably won’t be either.


Friends, especially good ones, are hard to come by however. Making friends means being a friend. As I tell my little preschoolers and always tell my daughter, “No one has to be your friend. You need to make someone want to be your friend.” Thankfully she has a strong support system of good and loyal friends.


My husband does too as he still has close and trusted friends he’s known since grade school. He also has a great group of college contacts, adult pals, and golf buddies. Me? I count both him and our daughter two of my besties and the rest of my squad consists of my coworkers, who inspire my faith; longtime friends who I may not see regularly but I know I can count on in a heartbeat; and those college girls who this month will be taking our annual girls trip…our 17th straight.


Not all friendships last, which can be a good thing, as we go through friends phases and sometimes a friendship just expires. Thankfully as we age we grow in relationship self-worth with self-esteem, which take off around age 60 and peak in our 70s. It makes sense, as a University of Kansas study revealed you have to dedicate 50 hours to graduate from acquaintance to “casual friend,” 90 hours to jump to “friend,” and more than 200 hours to earn “close friend” status. Yep, that’s a lot of time and effort, but from the sounds of it, it’s time well spent.



Weighing In January 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:02 am

That’s a photo of me and my WW Coach Julie. She has been with me for more than a year now and was with me the night I hit my “Lifetime” WW goal. Formerly Weight Watchers, WW is what got me going and what’s gotten me where I am right now.


Where I am is nearly 50 pounds lighter (give or take a tailgate or trip to New Orleans or Santa Fe!) and a whole lot healthier. I’m not here to brag, I’m just here to say “If I can do it, you can do it” and to answer questions I’ve repeatedly gotten.




I first did WW some 25 years after binging on bacon and baked potatoes while birthing our daughter and then again some time later. Both feel like ages and lifetimes ago, and in subsequent years I got bigger and bigger. I knew it and I felt it and yet in some way I didn’t care. That is, until my friend Anne (who is enviably thin and adorable) mentioned she was doing Weight Watchers when we got together with friends for the pre-Megzit royal wedding and before what WW calls my “why.” My why came in June of 2018 when, looking at photos of my daughter’s and my trip to Paris, I saw myself and thought, “You’re done Carla. You’re fat and time’s up.”


No one forced me to do it. No one suggested I do it. And no one walked me into a Weight Watchers meeting the very next day after cringing through those Parisian pics. I’ll never forget hearing energetic and inspiring leader Darlene tell us that for every 10 pounds you lose, you take 40 pounds of pressure off your knees. Amazing, right? That’s what I thought as I sat there with one knee that creaked. Think about it. How many people do you know who have had knee surgery or knee issues? Most are either long distance runners, on their feet all day due to their job, or are overweight. A small percentage is genetic and unavoidable, but I was determined I was not going to be a stiff old lady who can’t walk comfortably or climb stairs. In short and most importantly, I did it because I wanted to. And, like any 12-step program or self-improvement process, that has to be Step 1.



So step on that scale I did and from that day on I vowed I was going to lose weight and gain well-being. But, in a healthy way. No fad diet, no shakes or cutting only carbs. I basically ate almost whatever I wanted but in a controlled way and knowing it all had to fit within my daily allotted points, which are carefully and brilliantly calculated by WW. If I wanted my beloved queso one night I could have it, but I’d have to make amends somewhere else. Do I wish I could have queso, pizza, hamburgers, chips and dip, pimento cheese, and brownies every day? Heck yes! But, do I wish I was at my old weight. Heck no!




“Before and After WW” photos taken one year apart


I am by no means a health food nut now who does all her organic shopping at Whole Foods so let’s get that out there right now. But, I’m never really hungry and along the way I’ve learned to eat more balanced and more healthy. Seeing the results over time helped stick to the plan and it convinced my husband to jump on board and he’s also lost a substantial amount, as you can see from the photos above. Doing it together definitely helps but I stand firm that I would have done it alone had he not joined me. I was that determined.



I am now on what’s called “maintenance,” which basically means I eat to maintain my current weight. Yes, the holidays were hard but the beauty of WW is that you can jump right back on board and start anew. Do you have to eat healthy and light every single meal? No, focusing on healthy while still enjoying life and enjoying food is the goal. You also need to pay close attention to the difference between a celebration or splurge and just eating bad or making bad choices.


Keeping it off can be a struggle, as we all know. We reach that goal and then drop off. But, with WW I still weigh in and I still go to meetings, which have proven to make the difference in keeping the weight off and putting it all back on. Should I gain a pound or two, I will respond quickly and get right back on course as the sooner you respond to even a slight weight gain, the less likely you are to fall off the weight loss wagon. It also helps that my husband is still participating too.


WW is also big on “non-scale victories,” those little “yay” moments that have nothing to do with what you weigh. These might be compliments from others or the fact that I can now shop with friends and not feel self-conscious about the sizes I wear.


I will admit that compliments and some of the attention my weight loss has brought has been hard for me to take. I’ve never been one who likes attention and compliments have forever been a struggle for me. If someone tells me they like my outfit, my first reaction is to usually say something like I’ve had it forever or it was on sale. If you’ve noticed, I rarely include photos of myself on a blog (doing it this time is taking everything I’ve got) but I’ve learned to simply say “thank you” and with my weight loss I’ve learned to accept the praise and be proud of myself.



I do love that I feel lighter and healthier though, but what I love most is that I accomplished something. At my age, you really don’t accomplish a whole lot. I’ve raised a successful and respectful daughter. I’ve been married for more than 30 years. I’ve had the big jobs and done the big things. I’ve traveled the world. But what do I actually accomplish every day? Like big time accomplish, not simply cook a healthy dinner or write a thank you note? Not a whole lot, but now I feel accomplished and it’s a good feeling.


This whole journey also gave me a chance to put myself first, which I never do. It was time to take care of Carla, stop playing games, and get her mind and body right. I do take some pride in knowing that I didn’t lose weight because a doctor told me to. I lost weight simply because I wanted to. I put Carla first.



Carla has never been a lover of exercise I do love yoga, which I consider a mind and body exercise and do regularly. Now my plan is to add more cardio into my daily routine. You lose weight but you don’t lose flab, so I’ve been walking more and doing more weight bearing exercises. I’ll also squeeze in “random acts of fitness” that are fun and might inspire me to take on new challenges. I also drink water all day every day. I’m never without a water bottle.


I’ve learned, however, that your weight is 80 percent due to what you eat and only 20 percent of your activity. Yes, if you run 10 miles every day you can pretty much eat whatever you want but who among us does that? You need to reduce calories to lose weight and incorporate exercise to keep it down. If you consistently take in more calories than you need, much of them will get stored as fat. As my fit sister-in-law Susan has forever said, “you need to balance what you put in with what you take off.” And be honest with yourself. As healthy as I may have thought I was, I didn’t join WW because I’ve had too many fruit servings or too much salad dressing!


Funny thing is, I don’t see myself as a thin person. I still see the chubbier Carla, her back fat, and her non-boney knees. My girlfriend Barbara told me I need to get rid of all my “flowy” tops and as right as I know she is, it’s hard. I still don’t like anything clingy or tight and you’ll never see this girl in anything short or sexy. I may be thinner but I’m not any younger!



I have replaced many of those flowy tops with new ones, as I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe, and more than once. First it was summer clothes at the start of my weight loss journey, then it was fall and winter. And then guess what, I’d lost a whole lot more so it was back to more new spring and summer clothing and then fall and winter again. It’s been fun but it’s also been expensive. But, I’ve learned to buy only essentials and only things that, for lack of better words, mix and match. You could say it’s yet another non-scale victory.


I remember another friend of mine, Christie, saying on one of my annual college girls’ trips that “the best accessory is thin” and it’s stuck with me all these years. In a way, she was right. Still, we need to make sure we don’t become weight obsessed and venture into the dark world of too skinny, which is just as unhealthy and dangerous as too heavy. Pretty sure I never have to worry about becoming too skinny but it’s a warning to all of us.



I’ve learned this and so much else through WW including that what I put in my head is as important as what I put in my mouth. People (and some national weight loss company advertising) lament about having to count points and go to WW meetings but I gotta tell you, those meetings are so supportive and informative. And the “counting?” It’s all done on a fabulous app that not only counts your points, but can scan grocery items, share recipes and mindfulness, and hook you up with live WW coaches. It is amazing and it all made me realize that losing weight was way more important than eating what I maybe thought I wanted. It’s no longer about choosing something bad to eat but rather choosing to stay on goal.



We need to remind ourselves that food is fuel. It’s not supposed to be a therapist or entertainment. It doesn’t even always have to be amazing, which I’ve learned as I’ve tested new meal plans and recipes. Top Chef-worthy cooking has not invaded my kitchen (I don’t love to cook and have always said one of the first things I’d get if I won the lottery is a personal chef) and I’ve had to ask myself “what are you willing to give up?” Pasta and breads went away as did fast food and pizza. Things I couldn’t give up were my morning coffee creamer, although I now only do sugar free, and my evening wine. I also haven’t given up Tex-Mex totally but our weekly Sunday steak nights are no more. I still indulge however, but it’s never for long. It’s amazing how either full or guilty I feel after doing so and I’m usually pumped to get back on plan.


Another nice thing about WW is that you never have to be “that” person who can’t eat what someone is serving or something at a restaurant. Keto, paleo, vegan, Ideal Protein, Whole 30, shakes meal replacement, mailed prepped meals…all of those…just aren’t for me and for many aren’t sustainable anyway. I can eat anything a friend might serve at a dinner party without asking for special treatment or foods so sorry Marie Osmond, you can introduce all the new plans you want, but I’ll stick with mine.


That plan is to maybe lose a bit more but nothing too drastic. I don’t want to have to buy all new clothes yet again! I will keep eating right most of the time, keep doing yoga, and keep walking. It’s actually pretty simple right?


Yes and no. It does take hard work and it takes discipline. Nothing comes easy and you have to be patient as healthy weight loss takes time.  Notice I said healthy weight loss. Yes there are plans out there that promise the moon, but chances are that weight loss universe will come crashing down once real life returns. It took me from June 2018 to November 2019 to hit my goal and eventually make Lifetime. I stumbled along the way and was near tears at some points, especially when I felt like I had legit plateaued. Coach Julie though, the pro and pal that she is, was there to set me straight and has been there for me every step of the way.


I step out today lighter and healthier and will end with this: We are all beautiful; we may just not be healthy. But, if true hunger is not the problem or the issue, food is probably not the answer.