Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Unhappy Back. A Fallish Farewell. A Strange Picture.

Life has been way busier than usual these past two weeks and right on cue, when busyness increases and stress ramps up, my back throws a little conniption (not to mention a hissy fit) and forces me to hobble hither and yon like an ancient lady. I’ve taken a few muscle relaxers and pain killers and tried to take it easy during the 17 minutes per day that I have free for such glorious pursuits.

Thankfully, I’m feeling better this evening which is good because tomorrow we have our regular service in the morning followed by our annual Smitty’s Christmas Variety Show in the evening. Which I am overseeing. And playing accompaniment for three singers. And putting together the graphics and media for each act. And corralling performers. And doing a host of miscellaneous show-related things too numerous to enumerate.

Good thing I love it!

(And may I just mention that we are reprising an act from last year where Steve rides into the auditorium on a red bicycle built for two wearing red suspenders and quirky hat? And there’s a hippo on the back of the bike?  And the parson and  the hippo end up doing a little soft shoe dance up on the stage when they finally get up there?)  

Don’t you all just want to visit Manteo just in order to see that showy, Smitty-esque spectacle?

So.  Even though we are all heading speedily (and hopefully merrily) into the Christmas season, I took a few Fall-ish pictures last week that I want to go ahead and post, just so that Fall doesn’t think it’s getting booted out without at least one more appreciative glance at its loveliness.

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There now!  We can all head right into the Christmas with visions of sugar plums—instead of pumpkins—dancing in our heads.

But wait! What’s this?

Why are Mr. and Miss Smith posing in such an oddly posed pose?  We may never know.  (Or then again, we may know. And we may even write about it. If anyone is interested.)

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Honeymoon Stuff. Wedding Stuff. Good Stuff.

We all know that brides and grooms want to look their best
on their honeymoon.  Here is my favorite son workin’ his hair
so that he can attempt to measure up to the loveliness of his bride.


I do think he ended up looking pretty fine!
(But then I’m his mom, and it’s my job to think that way.)


I love to see happiness shining from these faces.



This is one of my favorite pictures from their honeymoon.
And may I just say that I’m still amazed that my son was even on his honeymoon?
Is it possible that I am old enough to have a son of honeymoonin’ age?
Sigh.  It seems that I am.


How is it possible that these little hands . . .


. . .turned into these big, ol’ hands? 
And wearing a wedding ring, besides.

Sigh.  (Again.)


Nathan and Meagan had a rip-roarin’ time going hither and yon to wherever
it was that they were going hither and yon to. 
(How is that for a sentence rife with descriptive details?)



But wait! 
What’s this?
Why do they have on their sad faces?


What could possibly be wrong?


Ahh.  It turns out that these pictures were taken at the end of their honeymoon.

But those two don’t stay sad for long. 
As they arrived home, it was all smiles. 
It was all thumbs up. 
It was all good.


Here are a few more shots from the wedding.



For some reason, whenever I look at this picture,
I think it looks like Nathan and Meagan with their six children.
And then that makes me smile.
(Crazy, I know.)


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On another note . . .

I want to thank everyone for your sweet comments about the Thanksgiving story. (At last count, over 50 comments have come in from those segments.)  Thank you for sharing stories from your own lives about times when you reached out to others in need, and thanks for sharing about other times when you’ve been the one in need of peace and comfort. 

I feel blessed to be a part of this community and I feel strongly that the best part of blogging is not just telling my stories, but getting to hear the stories you tell.  Thanks again to all who have shared.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Mother’s Nathan

If you haven’t yet read yesterday's post, you might want to do that first because reading this entry won’t make much sense without it.

So.  I’m assuming you would love for me to tell you just who our Very Special Thanksgiving Mystery Dinner Guests were?

Our Guests were eight men from Outer Banks Dare Challenge,  a local drug and alcohol rehab center housing guys who have been off alcohol or drugs for just a few days or weeks. We figured that on Thanksgiving, those men would not only be missing their families but also missing a homey setting in which to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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And so when we extended the invitation, we were thrilled when the Director of the Center (the guy standing in the white jacket) said the guys could come and spend the afternoon with us.  (Note:  We got permission from all the guys to  take—and post--these photos.)

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Our goal was to pull out all the stops and make these men feel extra valued; hence, the table done up in a lovely fashion with a lot of extra special touches. I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly appreciative, well mannered and fun they were to be with.

When we went around the table and asked what each of them was thankful for, one of them said how nice it was to be treated like a regular person and not like a drug addict.

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Another man said that even though they’d had several Thanksgiving meals at churches during the week, this one was the best because they were in a real home and they all missed that. 

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And later on, another man told us that he would never, ever forget this day.

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And this woman?  She didn’t seem to have a lot to say.   I guess maybe she’s just not used to being around cameras a lot. (Yeah, right.)

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The menu featured turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, marinated green beans with Romano cheese, broccoli salad, yeast rolls, homemade stuffing, homemade chunky applesauce,  potatoes and gravy, a huge relish tray and four kinds of dessert.  And boy oh boy, could those guys ever eat!  It made my mama heart happy to see them enjoy every single bite.

After the meal was over, we took ourselves out into the beautiful Carolina sunshine for some horseshoes and badminton.   Sarah was right in the thick of it—friendly, cheery and a temporarily adopted little sister for all these guys who were far from their homes and far from their own families.

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We saw some pretty amazing sporty/dance moves take place throughout the afternoon.

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Sarah got some coaching from one of the guys . . .

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. . .  and left the badminton game with a lot more badminton knowledge than she’d had going in.

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From badminton playing, she moved over to stand with her grandpa and watch the guys play horseshoes.

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The day was filled with good conversation . . .

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. . . and good “hanging out” time.

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And when our eight new friends had driven away,they left behind a glow that filled our home.

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They also left behind a pile of place cards, with each of their names representing a special person who touched our hearts and made our Thanksgiving memorable.  (And to help them remember the day even better, I’m going to put all the pictures I took that day on a CD and make copies to give to each of the fellas.  Since Steve goes out there every Thursday to teach--and also takes a guy to lunch each week--he can be the Memories On CD delivery person.)

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I want to close by providing a little extra background as to why we decided to host this meal. While I can’t speak for Steve, the meal was important for me because it gave me a chance to do something at Thanksgiving for someone else’s son.

I knew that most of those men at our table had a mother somewhere in this country who had set a Thanksgiving table, even as a part of her heart had mourned the fact that the son she loved wasn’t able to be there, that he wasn’t going to get to be in a real home for a real family Thanksgiving. 

And so, since I didn’t have my own son to cook for this Thanksgiving, this was my year to pay it forward, to pay it back, to pay it in whatever direction I could find.  In short, this was my Thanksgiving to cook for another mother’s Nathan, in the hopes that when she heard the story of where her son had spent Thanksgiving, she would feel her load lighten a little and she could breathe a prayer of thanks that the son she loved so much had received the love she wasn’t able to give in person.

There all sorts of reasons that mothers sat at Thanksgiving tables this year without the presence of the children they loved.  Some kids have faraway jobs, some have insufficient finances to travel, some have no time off work, some are away in the military, and some might even possibly be in a drug and alcohol rehab center.  And since I’m a long time member of the cancer community, I also know that some of the seats at Thanksgiving tables were empty this year because of the saddest reason of all--a son or daughter didn’t survive their battle with cancer.

There are so very many reasons that people we love go missing from our holiday tables.  And that gives us so many more reasons to show acceptance and love to the people we have nearby.  Because somewhere, they are being missed.  Somewhere, another mother’s Nathan is wishing that her child could be home. 

And last Friday, at 1 pm?   Her son was at home.  At our home.

And for that, I am thankful. 



Monday, November 28, 2011

Mystery (Half Way) Solved

Since I've gotten a few comments rife with suspense and trauma, I will tell you one little part of the mystery tonight.  It was NOT Nathan and Meagan.  (Sadly.)

And it was a LOT of people.

Mystery will be completely solved tomorrow!

Mystery Dinner Guests.

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Since our Thanksgiving crowd this year was looking a little meager (just the three of us plus Steve’s parents), we decided we needed to invite a few other folks to dinner.  So we hopped to it and invited some Dinner Guests.  Mystery Dinner Guests.  Special Mystery Dinner Guests.

Due to certain scheduling considerations, the feast with the aforementioned Guests didn’t take place until Friday at 1 pm which gave our family all day Thursday and Friday morning to devote to prep time.  Major, major prep time.  Because did I mention that these Dinner Guests were special?

Our preparation unfortunately included the unavoidable showdown with Sir Turkey. Since I am not a big fan of unbaked fowl, I was thankful for the presence of my mother-in-law who strode right into the kitchen and showed that ol’ bird who was boss.  If you haven’t noticed, an unbaked turkey is sort of pale and squishy and has mysterious cavities and protuberances.  As a result, I don’t really love getting within five miles of one, let alone touching one.  (For a funny Smith story about Steve and I cooking a turkey with a “goiter,” you can go back and read this post.)

So Vernie did the hard work while I cheered her on and steered clear of Mr. Tom.

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Other prep work involved cubing French bread and corn bread for the dressing . . .

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. . . and dirtying every pan in the house. Thrice.

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Potatoes were purchased and flung on to a crowded cabinet to be dealt with at the appropriate moment.  (And may I just mention that Sarah peeled a total of sixteen potatoes all by herself!)

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My wonderful and wondrous husband moved all the stuff out of the kitchen so that he could sweep and mop the floor.

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The whole Smith Cooking Crew joined forces to cut, chop, stir, and blend. . . .

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. . . and also deal with the green beans.

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After many hours of running hither (and also yon), I declared that it was time for a 20-minute siesta and collapsed gratefully on the couch.

I was not alone.

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Snowy just made himself right at home, resting his tiny behiney on my conveniently placed head.

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I am always glad to be of assistance.

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After Snowy’s and my mini respite, it was time to get up and launch into the Transformation of the Thanksgiving Table.

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The Smith Men got out the “good china” which is not actually china at all but twenty-four place settings of plain white dishes we got many years ago for $65 on clearance. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love a bargain?)

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The goal was to make the table as lovely as possible for our Guests.

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Supervising all our work had worn Snowy slap out so he laid himself down in the front hall for a post-morning, early afternoon, noon-ish type snooze. Midway through the snooze, the doorbell rang, signaling to all that the Mystery Dinner Guests had arrived!


Snowy woke right up, gazed thoughtfully at the front door and inquired, “What kind of guests could possibly rate high enough to merit such a huge Smith Extravaganza? I just can’t wait to see who comes through that door!”

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To be continued. . .