Thursday, September 8, 2011


In all the excitement of preparing for the hurricane, getting through the hurricane and recovering from the hurricane, I completely forgot to write about Sarah’s Extra Exciting Fantastic Incredibly Cool Birthday Gift!  Which came from an Incredibly Cool Blog Reader Birthday Gift Giver!

Here’s a blow-by-blow (or picture-by-picture) account of the opening of the aforementioned surprise gift.

Sarah took the wrapping off the first of the two gifts in the Mystery Set and stared at the contents in a bit of puzzlement.  Not to mention befuddlement.  It was a case for a Kindle?  Hmmm.  How very nice of someone to give that to her but obviously that person was completely unaware of the fact that she did not even own a Kindle.

Sigh.  Oh well.  It was a nice thought.


And then the light starts to dawn.

The second box.  It’s in the shape of  . . . . could it be . . . a Kindle?




It’s a Kindle!


Could a book loving gal be any happier?


Let me just say that Sarah and her Kindle were instant BFF’s and she has already used it for many hours in the short time she’s had it. She’s even graciously said that I could borrow it from time to time  .  .  .   for a small hourly fee.  (kidding!)


Anyway, thanks to Susan from Utah, for making Sarah’s sixteenth birthday so incredible. 

(And if any of you Kindle users out there have any helpful hints or user tips for Sarah concerning this wonderful piece of technology, please leave a comment.)

Sarah also received lovely gifts from several other blog readers, most of who have been following her story (and her life) for many years through the Caringbridge blog; it’s so cool how long term readers turn into honorary Smith family members.   It was such a big birthday to celebrate for our Miracle Gal and we’re grateful for the joyful additions to her celebration that arrived in the mail that day.

Before I close, this was the view from our front porch this morning.  As you can tell from the flooding in the street, we certainly did not need any more rain in our area; however, it made for pretty pictures.

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Jodi said, “Becky,  these pictures are AMAZING! I look at many of them thinking if I were there and these were post cards I would pick "this" one up to remind me of my trip. I rarely send post cards but rather select/purchase them to help me remember something special.  Do you do any editing before you post them?”

Jodi, thanks so much for your sweet compliment.  There are few things on earth I love doing any more than taking pictures. 

As for editing, any minor edits I do are in Picasa or   Picasa is a free download and is wonderful for organizing photos and for simple editing.  Picnik is free up to a point and then for additional features, it’s $25 a year which is well worth it.  I use Picnik a whole lot, not just for picture editing but doing graphics for church.

Jodie also asked, “How is Taylor's family doing now?”

They are still digging out from all the chaos but are holding steady.   They are such a great family!

Mrs. Pam said, “Snowy, what does your middle initial stand for? Have you told us, and I've forgotten? specialist.... sheriff.. . star ..sweetie pie?”

Jodi responded, Isn't it something like Studmuffin or something along those lines??”

And she was right! We made that his middle name because it was so absolutely incongruous with his whole persona.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Picture of Peace

The road home from my recent doctor’s appointment took me through the little town of Columbia, NC, where I stopped for a while to take some pictures.  I ended up losing track of time, which we photographers are famous for.  When I finally glanced at my watch and saw that it was almost 6 pm, I called Sarah to tell her I was running late. 

Before I could say another word she inquired, “Thrift store or picture taking?”

She knows me so well.  

(And I did go to a thrift store earlier in the day so she was actually right on both counts.)

I have driven through this particular town dozens of times and have always said to myself, “I really need to stop and take some pictures.”  I was so glad I finally did because it was a lovely, clear afternoon and I had the most rejuvenating time discovering beauty around every corner.

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When I drove a little further through the town, I saw a different kind of “scenery.”  The local school had been flooded during the hurricane and a massive clean up effort was going on. Since I have always had a teacher’s heart, I couldn’t help but pull over and take a few pictures in honor of the people who have been effected by this disaster.   (The town had also experienced a tornado with the hurricane.)

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Even though those pictures are not beautiful in themselves, they do represent the beautiful, strong spirits of parents, teachers and students who have been faced with devastation but have determined to rebuild and go forward.

Posting this last picture of peace in honor of all who have suffered in this storm.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

That’s What Friends Are For

As you know, Irene paid us a visit a little over a week ago and as a result, Sarah’s friend, Taylor, and her family were flooded.

Like most of you, I have heard innumerable news stories over the years about floods damaging homes but I always just said, “Oh, how awful that must be,” and went on with my day, never really understanding the full import of what was being talked about.

But now? Now I know. After walking through two flooded houses in as many days, I really know.

It is awful. Truly awful.

Stinking water seeps into the corners and crevices of everything—not just your house, but your life, your belongings, your very existence. Flooding’s impact on a family is so severe that I can imagine many families marking their family history with before the flood and after the flood.

The Cecil family has been through a tough thing. And it will be tough thing for a long time to come. But I have to tell you that they were such an inspiration to me as we and their other friends worked together to get them moved.

At one point, Taylor’s mom, Regina, suddenly turned to me and said, “Becky, have you heard that new worship song that just came out?”

And then she stopped right in the middle of the muddle of her her life and started singing it to me. I thought, “What an inspiring example of someone singing through the storms of life.”

I also heard Regina and her husband talking several times about how they were praying about this decision and about that decision as they tried their best to make some order out of the chaos that had upended their lives. Throughout the whole experience, their lives were propelled by praise and by prayer.

To make the whole situation even more challenging, the family packed up their house on Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday school started. (Five days late.) Regina teaches French and Spanish at the High School Sarah attends so she had her hands more than full trying to get things organized before starting teaching.

Although Sarah and Taylor would have definitely preferred to be in school rather than cleaning up after a flood, I was happy to see them managing to find things to smile about, even while sorting through Taylor’s special things and deciding which were ruined and which could be salvaged.

That’s what friends are for.




At one point in our work, Steve (who had been helping some other families) stopped by to check on us. He was trying to kiss me but was having trouble working around the hat. (And he knew better than to remove the hat altogether because he—of all people—knew the horror of the hair hidden underneath.


The lighter moments that happened provided a much needed balance to the grim reality of what was around us. During the course of those two days I learned that after the floodwaters recede, the aftermath--the unpleasant, inescapable aftermath—is just beginning.



Cleaning up a disaster and moving at the same time is quite the challenge. I don’t know about you, but the few times our family has moved we spent several weeks collecting moving boxes, wrapping materials, tape, etc. Taylor’s family however, did it with no prep whatsoever, having to find boxes and supplies on the fly and wading through all sorts of messes to find out which precious memories and family memorabilia had survived the baptism.

They were able to locate a few boxes here and there and when the boxes ran out, plastic bins and large trash bags did the trick.




Since I knew our work would be done in a steamy, unairconditioned house, I actually donned a pair of shorts for the job. This is not something I do lightly since my white legs give off a glow that could light up Los Angeles at midnight. But hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. (Even if it does alarm small children.)


Midway through our second day of packing and cleaning, I got the happy opportunity to be on the other end of the “meal delivered to the workers” scenario. A couple of women from our church (thanks Bibber and Marie!) not only took all the wet clothes and bedding to be washed, but they also whipped up lunch for our whole crew. We had ourselves a feast by the trash pile--grilled burgers with all the fixings, beans, pasta salad, and brownies.

That’s what friends are for.



Some people sat on the ground to eat, some used the ironing board. And just so you know? An ironing board really does make a dandy dining surface. I can’t believe that Martha Stewart hasn’t featured one in her magazine yet.


Do you see the washing machine to the left?


About a month ago, it overfilled while the Cecil family was gone and their kitchen and dining room flooded. They had to move out all their appliances and furniture, rip up the kitchen and living room flooring, buy a new washer and dining room table, and install all new flooring. And less than a month later?

They flooded again.

My favorite line of the whole day was when one of their friends who knew about the earlier flooding stopped by their house. He stood and surveyed the stripped-to-the-board floors and finally quipped, “What? You didn’t like the color?”

Did I mention that smiles help?

Especially when your belongings end up in front of your house, waiting to be carted off to the dump.


Especially when irreplaceable photos come close to being ruined. As a picture lover, this scene just broke my heart. We had to carefully remove each of the pictures from the sodden backgrounds and lay them out to dry. Fridges can be replaced. Precious wedding photos? Not so much.


As I was driving into the Cecils’ neighborhood one day, I saw one of the many Red Cross vehicles that have come into town. It just really struck me to see one up close because I’ve only ever seen Red Cross vehicles on TV newscasts.

But seeing this truck brought it all home for me. This was not an incident some grim faced news anchor was giving a spiel about 3,000 miles away. No. This was in Manteo. My home. My town.

Nothing quite prepares you for the day when disaster relief services have to come to the place you live. You can’t help but be grateful. And humbled.


At the end of our second day of helping out, Sarah and I stopped at the grocery store on our way home so that I could get a meal together for another family that evening. As I look at this picture that Sarah snapped (make-up is gone and the view underneath the hat is scary indeed), I was struck by the fact that I look tired. And grubby. But I also look happy.


I was happy because the experience reminded all over again that nothing lifts your mood any more than taking your heart, your time, and your own two hands and donating them to someone who is need. Boxes don’t pack themselves and papers don’t wrap themselves around dinner plates themselves.


That’s what friends are for.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Laboring Day

Because it’s Labor Day, and because I don’t have to go into work, and because parts of my house have not been cleaned since the Truman Administration, and because I’m in a cleany sort of mood (which doesn’t happen often), I have set aside Labor Day as my day to labor. Even though I do realize that I am in fact flying in the face of the true meaning of Labor Day. And I apologize to the Day Called Labor about that. I really do.

But a little apology isn’t going to stop me from faring forth and gittin’ er done.

Here is my Official Labor Day Promo and Publicity Photo. Don’t I look like I really mean business?

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I know that a few times in the past, some of you have commented on pictures I’ve posted of our house and wondered if our house stayed clean all the time.

Um. The answer to that would be no.

Cases in point?

My dresser.

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My bedside table.

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And just so you know what all the junk is for:

1. The clock is, well, a clock.

2. The smallish white thing behind it is the controller for my heated mattress pad which I do use in the summer. Because I’m strange like that.

3. The big round thing to the right of the clock is my white noise machine which I am eternally, hereafter and everlastingly addicted to. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

4. The black remote control turns our ceiling fan (which Steve installed) off and on; plus it adjusts the speed of the fan. Which I love. (But am not yet officially addicted to.)

5. The white fuzzy socks are one of many pair I have stashed in strategic places around the house because apart from being addicted to my white noise machine, I am also addicted to fuzzy socks; in fact, I feel quite discombobulated and insecure without them on at all times. And I mean at. all. times.

6. The small thing behind the clock is a kitchen timer which I use when I occasionally want to lie down for a few minutes and not oversleep.

I suppose the nail polish and the books are pretty self explanatory.

Now. As we gaze together at Steve’s night stand, it occurs to me that if our family didn’t love books so much . . .

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. . . our house would be 66.78 percent cleaner. (Ooh. Did I just do a math problem?)

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But there is good news on the messy house front. Today I tackled our master bathroom and got it squared away in a lovely sort of fashion.

Hurray for squaring away! In lovely fashion!

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But. When you leave the sparkling, squared away bathroom and take a left, you see this dismaying sight.

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And then you see dust on top of a dresser.

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And then you think, “Woe is me. Woe is me. My house shall never be clean. I think that I will give up on all house cleaning attempts and go outside and take pictures of the sky instead.


Oh, and what’s this? Bringing my camera back down to earth a minute, I see odd colors and shapes adorning the driveway.


Hmmm. It appears that Sir Husband is also laboring on Labor Day.




As you gaze upon these pictures, let me just inform you that it is 198 degrees outside with 150% humidity and I couldn’t even stand to stay outside five minutes to take pictures before running screaming back into the house. I am not even kidding—I honestly felt like I was going to have a heat stroke and waft my way into a delicate puddle of sweaty messiness right on the steaming pavement if I stayed out one second longer.

So I have come inside to do the hard work of blogging. In a leather recliner. In an air conditioned house. Sipping a cold drink.

Have I mentioned that my husband is amazing? Working in that weather for hours? Dragging cumbersome equipment around? Lying on the hot pavement? Saving money on a car repair?

He is just one of the many reasons I am counting my blessings on this Labor Day.

So how about you? What are doing today? Laboring or not laboring?

P.S. My doctor’s visit went great on Friday and I’ve got several of the promised flood stories in process.

And now . . . let me get back to laboring.