Friday, October 1, 2010

The Yellow Wall Saga

As you know, our walls downstairs are painted yellow.


When we moved in, that same bright yellow went all the way up the stairs and covered much of the second floor. Which was okay. For a while.

However, when we painted our master bedroom brown and Nathan’s bedroom tan, the bright yellow right outside the door of those rooms didn’t “flow” real well.

So the challenge was this: How were we to gradually transition from the bright yellow color downstairs to a more muted color on the second floor landing so that the transition wouldn’t be too jarring? (Because we all know that there’s nothing worse than a jarring transition!)

Our first idea was to paint the first floor landing wall with a blend of a couple neutral colors. The wall itself looked great but it didn’t blend with its surroundings. (In other words, its report card said, “Doesn’t play well with others.”)


Then we tried painting the wall going up to the second floor a light tan to blend better with the big brown wall. (Because our first idea was to try and transition to tan on the second floor landing.)

But the first floor landing area looked kind of chaotic with bright yellow (coming from the first floor) a brownish blend on the big wall and then a tan-ish color on the wall going to the second floor. (Did you follow all that? There will be a test.)


So when Plan A didn’t work, we went on to--you guessed it--Plan B.

The first floor landing wall (previously brown) is now a blend of the yellow from downstairs and a paler shade of yellow from the second floor.

Can you see the subtle blending on the “mirror” wall? Unless you’re actually looking for it, most people don’t even notice that gradual transition.


It’s a little easier to see in this picture.


(Oops. Don’t know whose dog that is! He’s so cute I may just keep him.)


Now when the pale yellow “arrives” on the second floor, it flows smoothly into our room . . .


. . . and into Nathan’s room without being too terribly jarring. See? I bet you didn’t feel jarred even one little bit.


I just thought I’d throw in a photo showing the built in floor lights. Just love ‘em.


And even though this last picture has nothing to do with the Yellow Wall Saga, I’m posting it just because I really love our new bedroom. And our wonderfully brown and clean carpet. Ahhhh.


(Just a little reminder--this is what our carpet used to look like. Now you know why I appreciate the new stuff so very much!)


And herein and forthwith ends the Yellow Wall Saga.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Known By Love.

I sat down to write today. And I said to myself, “Self, I think it’s about time (according to the Unofficial Smithellaneous Rotating Subject Schedule) to write a personal essay. A more serious post. Something with some meat on it. Something a bit more highbrow than “The Hairstyles of a Maltese.”

Although Snowy did ask me to pass along his most gracious appreciation, his most fervent felicitations and his eternal expressions of ongoing gratitude for all the gracious sentiments that were expressed about yesterday’s missive of masterpiece-esque proportions. (Well, actually all he said was, “Aw, shucks” but as his personal editor, I felt compelled to dress up his response a bit.)

So anyway, all that preliminary rambling brings me to the title of today’s (slightly more serious) post:

Known By Love

As most of you know, I am married to a minister. My dad was a minister. My sister is married to a minister. I have many friends who are ministers. I am a credentialed minister myself.

As a result, I have had an insider’s view of the church since the first day I entered my first church sanctuary as a wee little baby. And truthfully? An insider’s view of just about any organization--whether a church, a restaurant, or a business--can be a bit alarming. It can be a lot disillusioning. It can show you stuff that you really don’t want to know. And why is that? Well, it’s probably because people are involved in all of those enterprises. And as far as I can tell, people aren’t perfect. (Which is not an excuse. Just a reason.)

Of course the media doesn’t help matters any. Any negative thing that crops up concerning a religious leader immediately becomes fodder for instant headlines. It gives the talking heads on the news shows something to dissect. And dither over. And dismiss with an airy wave of the hand and the comment, “Well, why are we not surprised? Church people are no different from anyone else!”

And sadly, sometimes that’s true.

Sometimes church board meetings break out into fist fights. Sometimes gossiping saints stomp on the hearts of people already broken. Sometimes a preacher starts sniffing around the edges of another church, just looking for the opportunity to engage in a bit of “sheep stealing.” And sometimes a pastor even gets on Facebook and criticizes the actions (or sermon titles) of a fellow pastor in town.

Although the Bible says that Christians would be known by their love, there sometimes seems to be precious little love in our churches. And among our pastors. And between different denominations and various faith backgrounds.

Which is why I’d like to shine some light on something good. Something I’ve mentioned before. Something I’m going to keep on mentioning as time goes by.

Steve and I are part of an interdenominational pastor’s group. We meet once a month, sometimes for a meal, sometimes for prayer, sometimes for conversation.

At one of our recent meetings, a pastor’s wife said to the group, “I just want you all to know that my husband and I are committed to praying for you all and defending you. And if anyone comes to us and starts to criticize any of you for any reason, we have got your back.”

Another pastor said, “This group is a place where I can come and feel safe. No matter what has gone on in my church during the past month, I know I can come here and be loved and prayed for. Because I know that you understand.”

Another pastor, who had reached out to the rest of us for some financial help due to a crisis in his church, had tears in his eyes as he thanked us for standing with him during a challenging time.

And yet another pastor got up and told the story of some painful things that had happened to him in another church, things that just about killed him and turned him into an emotional, physical and spiritual wreck. Although he hadn’t told his story to many people, he shared it with us. We were honored to listen, we were moved to tears, and we were inspired to hear how God had restored him and brought him here to pastor on the Outer Banks.

There were three denominations represented in the room with us at our meeting last Friday. Since all of us pastor within about twenty minutes of each other, one might think that we would view each other as competitors; instead, we choose to see each other as team members. All of us are called to reaching people. And all of us know that we’ll accomplish that mission better if we work together—not apart.

So. Do some preachers fight and tear each other down? Sometimes. Unfortunately.

Do some preachers make a commitment to being “known by their love?” Sometimes. Fortunately.

Do me a favor. The next time you hear a story about a church fight, the next time you read a headline about bickering religious leaders, the next time you see something in Newsweek about a preacher who denigrates another denomination, please stop for just a minute. Please stop and remember that there are pastors and churches all over the world who will, thankfully, never be featured in those kinds of stories.

There are pastors everywhere—just like our small group in eastern North Carolina-- who are committed to caring well for their flocks, committed to caring well for each other, and committed to being known by their love.


PS. I thought it might be fun to show you a few pictures of the church we met in last week. If you’ve ever visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you have no doubt seen this church on the main road. (Because any church built in the shape of an ark and called, “The Ark” is sort of hard to miss.)


It even has port holes for windows. Is that cool, or what?


The church also has a thriving Spanish congregation which meets Sunday afternoons.


There’s an anchor in the front yard.


For those who have vacationed here, seen the church and been curious as to what it looks like on the inside, here’s your chance to get a tour.

I love the doors that look like they belong on a ship.


Another view of the porthole windows.


The flags of the countries where the church supports missionaries.


The platform.


The Ark.

How great to see a church fit in so perfectly with it’s coastal surroundings. Gotta love it!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Snowy. A Dog of Many Hairstyles.

Hello. Snowy here.

My mom asked me to guest post today and I have chosen to write about the many hairstyles and “looks” that have been foisted upon me over the 11 years of my life.

(Actually, I probably shouldn’t say the looks have been “foisted” on me because, as a canine, I am not even allowed to use the word foisted because I have no idea what it means. However, since it appears as though I have already used said word, maybe I’ll just go with it. And then I will cease foisting on you discombobulated explanations of my convoluted word choices.)

Ahem. Alrighty then.

This is the “I’m Being Patient With My Sister Who Has Cancer And Am Allowing Her to Put a Woman’s Scarf on my Head Even Though It’s Humiliating” Look.PA230323

Here I am sporting the Long-N-Shaggy Sheep Dog Look.


Even though I look just slightly crabby in this photo, I actually feel sort of like a cool surfer dude sporting my wind blown tresses.


Oops. I may want to nix that whole “wind blown surfer” idea because it’s obvious that I am actually the CEO of a very large corporation. Of some sort. And that I have lots of old money to toss about. Kind of.


It is quite clear to me that my mom has edited this post because I did not put this picture in because it does not feature me as much as it features my sister! But since it’s one of my mom’s favorite pictures of Sarah and me, I’ll let it remain. (Even though it was foisted upon me.)


I think that in this picture it looks like I am having a Very Great Thought. (Even though I’m not. Obviously. Because I’m a dog.)


My Imitation Polar Bear Look. I actually think it’s rather cool how my fur just blends right in with Sarah’s coat. We’re a mighty cute pair.


This is my look designed to inspire numerous “Oh, Isn’t He a Cute Doggie” responses. Love that.


I can’t even look at this “look” without wincing. What was the groomer thinking?


This was in my hippie days when I wore my hair long and down to my collar. From what I can gather from this particular photo, it appears as though hippies are required to help with laundry. I don’t believe that was in my contract when I joined the Smith Family.


When I was discharged from the Doggie Hospital after three days in ICU, the nurses had the nerve to fit me into the Cone of Shame. Which didn’t do much to enhance my manly, surfer dude persona.


Okay. This is where the sharing gets a bit painful. It seems as though once one has worn a cone of shame, its removal creates a great crisis in the hair department.


I look just like my mom when she first gets out of bed. (Did I say that out loud?)


Not. Happy. Here.

I am not, repeat not, cut out to wear pink ears on my masculine head. So. Embarrassing.


Ahem. The, um, Tousled Look? Maybe?IMG_3288

Would someone please speak to my family and tell them not to make me go so long between haircuts?


I mean, really!


Oops. I take that back. Looks like the groomer got a little happy with the scissors. And now she is allowed to go on with her life as though nothing tragic has happened while I am saddled with the burden of living my life looking. Like. This. (Is it just my imagination or do I look like a wee, white bobcat?)


This is my Page Boy Dutch Maltese Doggie Look. Not a bad look, if I do say so myself.


Even though I look a bit white and fluffy here, I do want you to know that I still have the ability to express my own opinions and put the “fear of dog” into all the neighborhood canines who happen to come near me. Is this an intimidating face or what?


This would be my fluffy and confused look. I pull it off quite well, don’t you think?


Nate and me are good buddies and often sit by the hour and share our hair care tips. Or not.


My philosophy has always been, “When you’re having a bad hair day, distract people by opening your mouth very wide.” Works every time.


And here I am at my finest. Not too poufy. Not too nekkid. Not too fluffy. Not too shorn. Just. Exactly. Right

If I do say so myself? I am one good-lookin’ fella.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don’t Like It One Bit (A Guest Post From Steve)

Once again, I would like to present to you my favorite husband as he shares the musing-filled missive that he wrote on the way home from Florida last week. It is followed by a few questions I've answered from the comment area. So today you're getting two for the price of one!

Don’t Like it One Bit

“I’m a bundle of confusion . . . . “ Isn’t that what Barbara Streisand sang in “Yentl?”

That pretty well sums up my emotional state as I’m headed home from the whirlwind trip to Florida for Nate’s twenty-first birthday. I’m just plain wrung
out with a singular sense of mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion sitting on my sagging shoulders.

Don’t misunderstand me--the three days with Nathan were positive, replete with lots of laughs, lengthy father/son talks, great food, and an action movie with lots of explosions. (And yes, Beck, the movie did have a modicum of character development and dialogue . . . but not so much as to spoil the fun.)

I enjoyed getting to know Nate’s friends and, of course, getting to see our friends, the Hawleys, was great as well. But on other levels, the visit was difficult, disconcerting, even painful.

During the whole weekend I was torn between wanting to insert myself into Nathan’s challenges and the knowledge that I needed to keep my fatherly fingers off his life. I dealt with restless nights, a swirl of thoughts, a mixed bag of emotions. I was trying to be fully there, redeeming the time, making memories and yet feeling the need to hide, to retreat, to process. The desire to fix and to help was almost genetically driven; however the related fear of encouraging dependence if I helped too much was always in the forefront of my mind.

For instance, on Thursday after he picked me up at the airport in Orlando, I was aware of something that needed attention and attempted a rescue to which Nate responded (very respectfully) that he wanted to handle it himself. Oops. So I backed off.

His big celebration was on Saturday night and he had requested that his party be a game style event; as a result, Ping Pong, corn toss and Frisbee football were all offered. Nathan invited me to play Frisbee football with the guys but I told him that since my right shoulder had been painful lately and I also had stitches from the removal of some suspicious moles, my Frisbee-ing would probably be brief. I did play, but I ran back and forth on the field as more of an accessory than a team member--complete with jiggling tummy. The young studs brilliantly and effectively avoided tossing the Frisbee to me.


It didn’t take long before I retired to the sidelines to eat watermelon and lick the wounds of my no-longer-youthful pride. Nate, of course, carried on happily without me.

After the games and before the birthday blessing over the meal, the whole gang gathered in a circle in the kitchen and all fifteen of us said something about Nate that we liked or appreciated. I was last and by the time my turn arrived I was choked up, listening to the funny and heartfelt words being spoken, and so grateful that Nathan is surrounded by such quality people. I felt such deep love and pride and I was busting-my-buttons proud of the man he has become and is becoming.

I croaked out a heartfelt line or two of affirmation and said a brief blessing over the meal, ending by thanking God for Ping Pong (which earned a hearty laugh) in order to help mask my emotions. I was so proud of him and yet so sad that he is starting his adult life 825 miles away from Becky, Sarah and me. And yet I was convinced that he is tracking true--he’s right where he should be with the best kind of people around him.

After the games and meal, it was time for Nate to open his gifts. Before ripping open the wrappers, he read Becky and Sarah’s cards out loud; then he read the inscription on my card. He squinted and stumbled over my handwriting, which resembles an amalgam of Egyptian hieroglyphics, chicken scratch and kindergarten scribble-scrabble. He kept asking “What is that word?”


He finally handed the card to me to read. The problem was that between my scrawl and my tears, I couldn’t read it either. Finally I croaked to the finish line and he went on to open all of his gifts with great appreciation.

I was really anticipating attending the Sunday worship service with him at Garden Grove Assembly, which is pastored by Revs. Frank and Sherry Hawley, the parents of Nathan’s girl friend. They are terrific people who both wear super hero capes and “leap tall buildings with a single bound.”

Here they are with their daughters and son-in-law.


Nate had invited me to sit in with the praise band as they don’t currently have a bass player. I was honored and excited at the prospect and even considered bringing my custom-built, Carvin bass guitar with me. (I finally decided against it, due to the risk of damage and additional luggage expense.)

Nathan had told me that the church had an old bass that needed some repair, so on Saturday morning, he and I dropped it off at the musical store with the guitar tech guy who came complete with obligatory ponytail and John Lennon glasses. Happily, he got the thing working again and as I paid him, I was so pleased that Nate and I would get the chance to jam out in church together. “I’m finally going to be needed,” I happily told myself.

Well, when Sunday morning came and it was time for rehearsal, the bass guitar rolled over and played dead. (I could even hear it saying “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”) No amount of fiddling, prodding, battery or cord changing could get it to cooperate. So when service time came, instead of getting to be up on the platform making music with my son, I sat out in the congregation and watched from a distance as my son expressed his musical gift. And you know what? He “done good” without me.

But I didn’t have to like it.

Sunday afternoon after a quick lunch, Nate and Meagan took me to the Orlando airport for my trip home. During the ride we talked about a variety of issues and in the middle of one particular chat Nate said, “So what do you do?”

Answering another question from the conversation that had been swirling in my head all weekend I said absently, “I let go.”

We were speaking on entirely different planes, the question and answer overshooting each other on different azimuths and altitudes, like airliners X-ing in the sky.

He probably didn’t even notice my odd answer, focused as he was on the stuff of young adult life--dreams, fears, and great expectations. Those same things he’s facing, from my middle aged perspective, look more like dreams altered, fears faced, failures learned from, and a few expectations greatly lowered. It’s amazing how the years can change your vantage point and perspective.

And now here I sit on the plane headed home, my ears popping even as the pilot helpfully informs me that we have begun our descent into Norfolk. I’m pounding and clattering away on my computer, with my tray table not yet in its “full and upright position,” eyes tearing up, spilling my guts into an inanimate machine while sitting among strangers. Such is modern life.

I suspect that a young man with an earring, reading a book (novel idea . . . rim shot!) sitting across the aisle from me might be looking over my shoulder at my musings. After all, the font is set for MIDDLE-AGED-HUGE on my PC.

And I’m quite sure that he heard me sniff a couple times and maybe thought, “Just some middle-aged dude with a paunch trying to be cool with ‘product’ in his hair writing some drivel about his latest midlife crisis.”

Whether he was even thinking those things or not isn’t important (he likely wasn’t, but isn’t paranoia fun?!), I still felt like putting on my parental persona and saying to him, “Tuck your shirt in already. PULL UP YOUR PANTS. Don’t slouch. Did you call your mother on her birthday? Are you saving money? Did you rotate the tires on your car at your last oil change?”

But alas, those speeches are for all those yesterdays when the world was younger and the young men of the world were still boys. Speeches like that are for all those long ago moments when I didn’t need bifocals and was still one of the young studs, sans jiggling tummy, playing Frisbee football with the guys.

Middle age has eclipsed my youth and manhood has dawned for my son and now I have to continually make the decision to let him be, to let him go, to keep my mouth shut, to pry my fingers off his life and to let him spread his wings. I want him to take the risk, take the plunge, and take on the adventures of life—wherever they may take him. Even if it’s away from me.

But I still don’t have to like it. Not one little bit.

NOTE: I am fully aware that some parents who read this missive have faced horrendous suffering with your children such as death, illness, divorce, dysfunction, addiction, imprisonment, to name just a few. This entry isn’t even a blip on the radar of pain in light of what many of you have faced. It was merely an account of my journey of a normal process every parent must face--namely a child leaving home.



Yesterday’s Casserole Recipe

Anon said, “I want to make this recipe for dinner soon! Can I use an 8 inch square casserole instead of a 6 by 10 one??? Thanks . . . love your recipes, they are good and usually do not require a trip to the grocery store for exotic ingredients! Unless you consider mayonnaise and the fact that you were out of it exotic!”

Anon, I think the 8 inch pan would work great; in fact, I think more people would tend to have that size, rather than the 6x10 size the recipe calls for.

Krueth said, “Sounds delicious! I will be making it in the next few days! I also did not know you could buy cornflake crumbs..LOL I always just dump some in a Ziploc bag and crush away.”

Dumping and crushing sounds good to me! That would be a much more economical way to get the crumbs.

Chick-Fil-A Post

Krista wrote, “ . . is that cheese sauce for the fries?!”

Jill said, “Yum! Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, and 5 guys are the best fast food when I splurge on junk! Oh, I like the "Polynesian" sauce and the newer "Chick-fil-a" sauce with my Chick-fil-A.

Harriet said, “I love Chick-fil-A also! That looks like the kids' meal size. You probably already know this, but at least at our Chick-fil-A stores here in GA, you can trade in your unopened kids' toy for a free small ice cream. Another yum!”

Love Being A Nonny said, “I get a kid's meal too and I always trade in my toy for a dream cone! The honey roasted barbecue sauce is THE BEST!!!”

Buff said, “I love Chick-fil-A also! And we do have them in Carmel....but something you must try if you haven't already...5 Guys...burgers & fries...I know there is one on the by-pass...Kitty Hawk, maybe?

Wow. Nice to meet so many other Chick-Fil-A fans! Although we used to live two minutes away from a Chick-Fil-A, now we’re a couple hours. So whenever I get to eat at one, it is a big treat.

My favorite part about eating there on my “doctor visit days” is going through the drive through, parking the car in an out of the way spot, turning on my book-on-CD, and spreading out my feast “just so” on my lap. Ahhh . . . the luxury of it all. I always get TWO packs of Chick-Fil-A sauce because not only is the sauce perfect for dipping the chicken tenders, it is also marvelous with the waffle fries! In fact, I love the sauce so much I am sometimes tempted to dab it behind my ears!

And to Krista who asked if that is a cheese sauce, it’s not. But I don’t really know how to tell you what it is—except to say that it is really good!

To those of you who mentioned trading in the toy at Chick-Fil-A for a cone, I had actually heard that a long time ago but had forgotten all about it. Next time I go, it’s gonna be a cone for me!

And yes, we do have a 5 Guys within about 20 minutes of us. I LOVE their hamburgers—they’re amazing. (Although I’m not as thrilled with their fries.)

Sigh. All of this food talk is making me hungry. I think I’ll go gnaw on a carrot stick.

Or not.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Recipe! (Golden Chicken Cheddar Bake)

This recipe comes from my sister, Debbie, and is one of my favorites. Since I was making this for a dinner party, I doubled the amounts given. (Complete recipe is at the end of the post.)


Before we get started, I have to brag just a tad and say that for this particular casserole making experience, I got all my ingredients chopped, diced and gathered before the cooking even began, just the way they do on all those fancy cooking shows on TV! (Except for that the TV cooking shows never feature a little dribble of something mysterious on the front of the kitchen drawer. Oh well. Perfection doth yet elude me.)


So let’s get started! Dribbles and all!

In a large bowl, combine chicken . . .


celery . . .


onion . . .


. . .almonds and cheese.


Note: The day before preparing this recipe, I was in the grocery store staring at the selection of nuts and wracking my brain, trying to remember if the recipe called for sliced or slivered almonds. Sliced or slivered. Sliced or slivered. Oh what’s a girl to do?

I finally figured that no matter which one I chose, I would have a 50-50 chance of being right. As it turns out, I was wrong. It actually called for slivered almonds. And I got sliced. Oh well.

After the momentous Wrong Almond Crisis had come and gone, a new crisis presented itself in the form of a mayo bottle. An empty mayo bottle.


I stared at the bottle for a while and it stared right back, its one-eyed gaze rebuking me in a rather malevolent, mayonnaise-ish sort of way for not planning ahead better and having a back up bottle of mayo in the house.

I eventually lost the staring contest with Sir Mayo and put the whole recipe on hold so that I could dash out to the grocery store and purchase another jar. Second crisis over!

Now. Get a smaller bowl and combine the mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper; mix well.


Add that mixture to the chicken/cheese mixture and mush them all together with a spoon. Or in other words: stir. (I just love saying the word “mush.” Mush. Mush. Mush.)


It will eventually look like this. Yummy in a sort of chaotic, mushy way.


Now grab your corn flake crumbs . . . well, at least, grab your bowl of corn flake crumbs. (Grabbing the crumbs themselves may prove to be just a tad messy.)


Add your melted better to the crumbs and stir it all together. (I hereby admit that I got a little spoon and took a taste of the crumbs and butter. It was delish! Of course, melted butter is delish with just about anything.)


Now, this is the important part of the recipe. Make your way over to your poor, little ol’ nekkid casserole and say to it, “Have no fear, little nekkid casserole. I am hereby about to clothe you in Corn Flakes crumbs! And butter!”


Voila! Forsoothly and verily, you will have in front of you one “clothed in corn flakes casserole.” Ain’t it purty?


Gaze in admiration at your creation for a moment. Pat yourself on the back. Lick the butter bowl. Whatever you have to do in order to be happy.

And let me just add one more thing. I guarantee that you will be very grateful to yourself if you take a moment to run water in your bowls and throw in your measuring cups and spoons. Clean up is much easier if accumulated food glop does not have a chance to permanently affix itself to your utensils. Don’t ask me how I know.


And that’s it!

I’m sorry that I am ending this post with a picture of dirty dishes instead of a lovely, golden baked, cornflake clad casserole. However, when I took the dish out of the oven, there were eight dinner guests in the house and I didn’t want to look like a really odd hostess and start taking pictures of my own cooking. That would just not be cool. And I, of course, am all about being cool. (You can stop laughing now.)

So if you want to see the finished product? Well, go make it yourself, already!

And enjoy!

Golden Chicken Cheddar Bake

3 C cooked, chopped chicken

1 C (or less) sliced celery

1/4 C chopped onion

1/4 slivered almonds

1 C cubed sharp cheddar

3/4 C mayo (I use lite and it does great)

2 T lemon juice

1/2 t salt

1/4 t pepper

1/2 C cornflake crumbs mixed with 1 T melted butter

Combine chicken, celery, onion, almonds and cheese in a bowl. Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, mix mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Add to the chicken mixture; mix well.

Spoon into a greased 6x10 baking pan. Top with buttered cornflake crumbs.

Bake 325 for 35 minutes.

Serves 4-5.

This recipe is easy to double (put in 9x13 pan) and make ahead of time.