Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pictures. And The Circle of the Broken

Sometimes I just get in the mood to look at old (and old-ish) pictures. Today is one of those days.

And guess what? Since you’re part of the Smithellaneous Family, you get to look at pictures with me! How fun is that?

So here they are, in no particular order.

This is one of my all time favorite photos. Warm, happy, fun.

steve sarah

Some of you may remember when we were told that Sarah would not grow any more. (She topped out just under 5 ft; without treatment, she would have been about 5’5.) Her doctor did a bone age study and said her growth plates had prematurely fused because of chemo during relapse. It took Sarah a little while to come to grips with that news. However, as I told her then and have told her many times since then, she is the “perfect huggable height.” As this picture so well demonstrates.


Cooking a huge meal for a large party. Accck!


I eventually got it all together. This is what the kitchen looked like before the guests arrived. Ahhhh.


My very lovely mom, Jo Ann Michaelson. (This was a year before she got married.)

mom classic

My mom and her crew of kids. (There are ten years between the youngest and oldest.) She had three boys and then three girls which was pretty good planning, huh? I’m the oldest of the girls.

mom with 6

Sarah is giving Nathan a run for his money. It looks as though he’s in the greatest of agony.

n s arrm wrestle

Nathan doing home work in our RV; this is around the time Sarah was in treatment.

nate home school

Nathan leaving to go back to college after a summer at home. Big ol’ mommy tears . . . (Um, the tears are big. Not the mommy.)

nate me crying

Sarah with Richard Petty


She was featured with The King in an article in People magazine focused on Victory Junction Gang Camp, which the Petty family founded in memory of their late son, Adam. (I originally--and inadvertently--put Kyle's name where Adam's is. Thanks, Lori, for pointing that out to me. My fingers got ahead of my brain!))


The Parson And His Flock

pioneer smiths

Big lady. Little lady. Big hair. Little hair.

sarah baby

Taken on the rooftop playground at Brenner Hospital where Sarah had most of her treatment.

sarah in tube

Mom and Dad. Forever in love.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 (4)

Every time I look at the way Snowy is sleeping I just have to laugh.

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This was taken about six months after Sarah had finished her bone marrow transplant.

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One of my favorite shots of the kids.

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Okay, I know it looks like I have no hair whatsoever, but it was pulled back. Honest! The guy in the tux is Nate.


Nate and Grandpa unloading music gear at a church in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 (3)

And there you have it! A brief trip down memory lane.


I also want to mention the comments (and e-mails) that I’ve received concerning my recent post, “Pearls In The Pain.”

I was so touched that you would share your stories of your own pain with me—everything from divorce, to the loss of a child, to the loss of a job, to poor health, to financial stress, to depression. I have read every word of every comment several times and am grateful to be reminded that none of is alone in what we’re going through. I was honored to read your stories and your words of support and hope.

Which reminds me of the lyric that Sue C. Smith (who I am honored to call a friend) wrote a couple years ago after being inspired by our family’s journey through Sarah’s cancer. Sue has won several Dove Awards and has written songs for many major Christian recording artists. Her skill in putting emotions into words is unparalleled.

I actually think that this song could be the Smithellaneous theme song, because we are all a part of the circle.

The Circle of the Broken

Lyrics: Sue C. Smith Music: Kevin Stokes Sung by: Becky Smith

1. We're the walking wounded, no pretending we're alright,

We meet to share the stories of the struggles in this life

And in the telling, though there are tears

Something happens here

CHO. In the circle of the broken

Where no one’s heart is whole

In the middle of the hurting

We find hope

For we call upon God’s mercy

We rest in grace

We’re all sinners, we’re all saints

When the circle of the broken prays

2. Words have offered comfort

Sometimes we’ve simply wept

And there is understanding

Though a lot is left unsaid

‘Cause in the silence, love is the bond

We know we belong (back to chorus)


Are you desperate, grieving, filled with fear?

You are welcome, you are needed here (back to chorus)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pearls In The Pain

A Brief Timeline of The Past Four Years of Smith Life:


1. In June, Sarah had a cancer relapse. We dealt with major grief as we were reminded of the statistics that there are no long term survivors of relapsed Neuroblastoma. Her oncologist discussed with us that she may need a second bone marrow transplant. (A bone marrow transplant is one of the most stressful things on the planet.) He ended up trying chemo instead and after several months she was miraculously back in remission.

This picture was taken the night before we told her and Nathan about her relapse. I remember looking at her carefree smile and thinking, “Tomorrow your whole world will be torn apart.” And it was. She was absolutely devastated.


The oral chemo she was put on made her skin and lips extremely dry.


It was a tough time for all of us.



But it was a wonderful day when we got to tell her that she was back in remission.



1. Nathan left home to go to college. Since we’re a very close family, it was a really tough adjustment to have him gone.
2. I was diagnosed with COPD (lung disease) and was told my lung capacity was at 60% of normal; I was also told I was a possible candidate for a double lung transplant down the road.
3. I had a health scare concerning my heart; after a few tests (including MRI of the heart) I found out it was a false alarm.
4. I started having severe vocal problems and underwent several tests and procedures to get to the bottom of them. I had difficulty singing (one of my great loves) and even had to go on vocal rest for awhile. The source of this problem was never discovered.

Here’s a picture of one of the tests I had. The only reason I’m smiling is that I was just posing; the wire (with the small camera attached) had not yet been inserted through my nasal cavity and down the back of my throat. It was NOT a fun experience.



1. I had a cancer scare in February when I was told I had a 90-95% chance of cancer in one or both breasts. After many tests and biopsies, sleepless nights and tears, it turns out it wasn’t cancer after all. But for all a whole month, I truly believed I had breast cancer.

Waiting for my surgical biopsy.


2. Steve was diagnosed with skin cancer
3. We had major job (church)-related stress
4. Steve resigned from the church he pastored in November. We went largely unemployed for a year.


1. In August, my dad passed away. We flew to Wisconsin for his last hours of life and his funeral.



2. Steve was voted into a new church in September; we commuted for two months before moving to Manteo in December.


1. Sold house/bought house
2. In March, I was diagnosed with breast cancer; had a double mastectomy in April
3. I have more surgery pending in the fall

What do all of those experiences have in common?


Stress wears many different faces but we all experience it in one form or another. And I know that there are a whole bunch of you who could write a list of your own stressors that would make mine look like a Sunday school picnic. I’m by no means saying that I’ve had it tougher than everyone else because I haven’t. Not by a long shot.

But still. Life is stressful. For everyone.

And lately, the stresses of life have been causing me to niggle around the edges of depression. I think that thrown into the mix of the stuff listed above is the fact that I’m 48-years old and might be in the early (but non-terminal) stages of a midlife crisis.

And maybe those of you who are near the same age (or at least the same season) in life can relate. Your kids are out of the nest, or at least old enough to not need you as much as they once did. You’re starting to realize that you’re not going to change the world, or discover the cure for cancer, or be the first person to go to Mars.

Your physical body is--shall we say—changing. And not for the better. Your knees ache. You’re having to wear reading glasses. (Which you swore you’d never do.) The sands of time in your hourglass figure are all sinking to the bottom. Shopping for clothes is not as fun as it once was. There are jiggles where there didn’t use to be jiggles. And joggles where there never were joggles. When you wave good-bye to friends, the bottom part of your arm keeps waving long after your friends are gone.

You’ve been married twenty or thirty years by now and have weathered some pretty tough storms. You’ve come to the unhappy (but realistic) realization that there are no perfect marriages and that the only time any couple ever rides happily into the sunset with all their problems resolved is at the movie theater. Or maybe you’re divorced. Which is one of the biggest stressors possible.

Your kids turned out to not be as perfect as you thought they might be. Because after all, what young parent doesn’t gaze at their tiny newborn and have delusions that this little child will be the first baby on the planet who will be raised perfectly by the world’s best parents. (Ha.)

The dreams you had as a college student concerning your goals for a fulfilling, well-paying, world-changing career didn’t quite come to fruition. You’re coming to realize that you’re not going to retire with a couple million in the bank account after all. In fact, your current hope is that you’ll be able to find a way to retire at all before you turn eighty.

And I could go on. And on and on.

Life can be stressful. And depressing. And disillusioning. And disappointing.

And to think it only took a blink of an eye to even get to this point.

Wasn’t it just last week when we were fifteen years old and our lives were ahead of us, full of golden promises and possibilities? When we thought that anyone over the age of thirty was ancient and out of touch? When we knew that we had all the answers?

Now it seems as though we know all the answers to the questions no one asks!

Welcome to real life. Real stress. Real pain. Real tough.

Although I would be the first to say that many times life is pleasant and fulfilling and wonderful, this particular post is written for all the times when it’s not. And it’s written for all the people who struggle just to get from one day to the next.

Because life isn’t really about fluffy dreams and pristine perfection. It’s about just showing up. Again. And again. And again. And realizing that in the grittiness of life, a few pearls are inevitably formed.

In fact, if I were to look back over the stressors that I listed at the beginning of this post, I could very easily add, “This experience was tough but it brought something special to my life. This crisis made me into a person I never would have become without it. This challenge brought into my life some wonderful people that I never would have otherwise met. This health crisis made me appreciate life a lot more. This trial helped me to feel God’s presence and comfort closer than ever before.”

Truly there are pearls in the pain. And it’s the pearls that make the gritty parts of life doable. And bearable.

What you’re going through today might be the toughest thing you’ve ever faced. Hang on. Keep showing up. Know you’re not alone.

And remember that one day you’ll hold in your hand the pearls formed in the pain.


I’ll leave you with the lyrics to a song that I haven’t thought about in about ten years, but it came to mind again this morning as I was writing.

Life is Hard (God Is Good)
By Pamela Thum and Joel Lindsey

You turn the key
Then close the door behind you
Drop your bags on the floor
You reach for the light
But there's darkness deep inside
And you can't take it anymore

'Cause sometimes living takes the life out of you
And sometimes living is all you can do

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

You start to cry
'Cause you've been strong for so long
And that's not how you feel
You try to pray
But there's nothing left to say
So you just quietly kneel

In the silence of all that you face
God will give you His mercy and grace

Jesus never said
It was an easy road to travel
He only said that you would never be alone
So when your last thread of hope
Begins to come unraveled
Don't give up, He walks beside you
On this journey home and He knows

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Harbor Front

Recently Steve, Sarah and I bought some ice cream and went to the Downtown Harbor Area to eat it.  And look at all the Harbor Front Related Stuff.  Which I love to do.

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There was plenty of color to catch the eye . . .



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. . . and even some historic sights to see.


As usual, Steve and Sarah had to put up with the fact that there was a Woman With A Camera lurking behind them, taking note (and pictures)  of their every move.   After all these years of being stalked, they’ve pretty well adapted to it.  And they don’t let it ruin their day.


We stopped by a memorial to soldiers which was especially meaningful since
Steve’s dad served in Vietnam. 

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After we had eaten the ice cream and seen the sights, it was time to head back to the car.  On the way, we passed by by the Manteo Booksellers which caused Sarah to stop dead in her tracks.  And smile.  And think happy thoughts. Sarah has never met a bookstore she doesn’t like.


A girl after my own heart.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The House. Officially. Ours.

As of 4:40 pm this afternoon, we became Manteo home owners!

We had plans for a celebratory cook out with the three of us, but a storm blew in and just slightly dampened those efforts. (We were desperate for rain so we didn't mind terribly much.)

So we ferried the chicken inside to cook and happily celebrated our Big Moment forthwithly and forsoothly.

We're thankful that we opted to wait on the closing till the termite inspection was done this morning; turns out there is some termite activity (thankfully, no damage) and the treatment will be around $800. Since it was found before the closing was finalized, we won't have to pay for that.

The new air conditioner is on order and will be installed early next week. I'm quite extremely thrilled about that little bit of news. The carpet will take another couple weeks because Steve wants to do some painting first but the main point is that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want because the house is officially ours! (One day before the deadline, might I add.)

As I've said before in times of celebration, "Hallelujah and hurray!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Stymied By Termites

What is it about the best laid plans of mice and men . . .?

Our closing on the house today didn't quite go as we had planned.

We had been at the lawyer's office for over an hour and had signed paper after paper after paper. As we were happily headed down the paper-signing home stretch, someone mentioned the words, "termite inspection." There were blank looks all around--on the part of our Realtor and on the part of the lawyer's assistant who was dealing with most of the paperwork.

Turns out that one of them was supposed to arrange a termite inspection but didn't. They tried their best to get an inspection arranged today, but couldn't make it work out. Our Realtor told us that if we signed today and the termite inspection tomorrow (earliest time anyone can get here) showed termite damage, we would be liable for it, not the previous owner.

And so his advice was to put everything on hold until tomorrow, after the inspection was done.

We all stopped dead in our tracks, put all the papers away and left.


At least tomorrow when we go back in, we won't have to start from scratch. We'll just pick up where we left off and then--finally--be done!

We've waited this long; I guess one more day won't hurt.


From the Comments:

A couple people asked if Sarah was reading a dictionary in the final picture posted earlier today. Yup, she sure was! I had found a mini dictionary at Goodwill for .75 and she was just entranced with it. Next thing I knew, she was out on the front porch, happily flipping through the pages.

As for what section she likes best? Hmmm . . . I don't know that she has a favorite section but she is very interested in the roots of words and what language they came from. (She especially loves Latin.)


Lisa commented that this Monday's appointment is a lot better than the Monday appointments I've been having.

How true that is! I am ever so glad to have all my "expanding" appointments behind me. Signing a thousand papers for a house closing is far preferable to having large needles and syringes headed toward my person.

So happy to be done!

Almost Ours

At 1:30 pm today, Steve, Sarah and I will meet with the seller, our real estate agent and the lawyer and sign a billion papers.  And then?  Then this house will finally be officially ours!

You would not even believe how complex this process has been and how close we’ve come to not having things work out; it is only because of several unexpected miracles occurring that this day is even possible.  Our family is way beyond grateful that we will get to go to bed tonight in a house that is really and truly, The Smith House.

And you know something that just occurred to me?  We sold the house in Smithfield just two days before the selling deadline.  And we’re buying the house in Manteo just two days before the buying deadline!  Nothing quite like cuttin’ it close!

Our first order of business after closing will be to get the downstairs air condition replaced.  It hasn’t really worked ever since we’ve been here and with temps reaching 100 degrees lately, we’ve been a little toasty in here.  We haven’t been able to do much entertaining in the last few weeks either, since putting 10 or 12 people into a non-cool space  (and using an oven to cook for them) is not the greatest of ideas.

So I’m looking forward to unlimited oven usage and people coming over again.  I’m also looking forward to getting the old, stained blue carpet on the second floor replaced. The buyer has given us a “repair allowance” and after the air conditioner is taken care, this carpet is coming out and wonderfully new, wonderfully brown-ish/tan-ish carpet will be taking its place.  Oh happy day!

And then we can paint the walls and put up curtains and pictures and really get settled in!  (The first floor is basically finished; it’s the bedrooms that we haven’t done much with.)

So anyway, I will stop rambling about all this now, but I did want to share the happy news with you, since so many of you have been faithfully walking this stressful “sell a house and buy a house in a certain amount of time” road with us.

The only thing Sarah is disappointed with in the whole deal is that the lawyers office is 10 seconds away from the church and just 2 minutes away from our house.  She keeps on saying, “But I was hoping we would have to travel somewhere to sign the papers!”

I think our little Gypsy Princess is getting itchy feet; she spent the first six years of her life traveling around 35 states and that lifestyle just got in her blood.  We may just need to make up some place for her to go so that she can look out the van window and see something besides the usual view.

Hmmm,  Maybe she and I could pack our bags and take a mother/daughter road trip to . . . Kansas?  . . . Kentucky?  . . . Kalifornia? 

At any rate, we’re all excited about our 1:30 appointment--even if it doesn’t involve travel!  Thanks for your prayers for us during this process and for being happy with us now that the process is done.


And now, to celebrate the day, here are a few of the memories we’ve already made in this house.

The Smith Sibs cooking the traditional “Decorating the Christmas Tree Night” Pancake Dinner.


Ready to entertain . . .


Tears on the couch after the first day of school. Snowy is just so sympathetic.


The College Dude’s bed.  Empty too much of the time now.


Snowy takes a break on the landing going to Sarah’s room.


Praying together before heading out to school.


Another fun dinner party.


Mirror view.


Sarah takes over the kitchen.


The College Dude/Gardener.


Pretty in pink.




A favorite picture of a favorite daughter.


The beloved front porch.  And swing. And house.