Friday, January 6, 2012

A Merry Charlotte Christmas

Just a quick reminder that Smithellaneous will be off line a couple days starting tomorrow as we make the move to a new hosting site.
If I’m not back up and running by Monday, just assume that I’m in the corner of our bedroom in the fetal position trying to cope with
the sad fact that technology has gotten the best of me.  Oh. And also please send chocolate.

Remember: To get to the new site, the URL will be the same:

I know it’s the sixth of January already, but forgive me if I backtrack a little into Christmas. I just didn’t get all my Christmas writing wrapped up before the ol’ calendar page did its annual flip.

Just so you don’t get the erroneous impression that our recent Christmas visit to Charlotte was made up only of frightening encounters with oysters here are a few happier pictures from the visit.

Nathan and Sarah have been helping to set this table for holidays for a lot of years now and things haven’t changed much.

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After the table setting was completed, Nathan rummaged around in the basement and discovered a little car he used to play with when he was small.  Of course, anything with wheels is an immediate attraction to guys of any age, so he and Steve set off to have a little fun.

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Dontcha love that face?

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And this one?

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Since my interests run more toward things non-mechanical (and since Meagan was ably covering the photography duties outside) I helped Steve’s mom in the house.  In the course of getting things ready for the meal, she showed me a special item she had recently come across--her prom book from sixty years ago. 

I was entranced.

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It was especially fun to see that the last page included a diary where she notes who she has attended the prom with.  It was some fella named, “Kenny.”

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I was amazed by how much work had gone into creating those booklets in a world before computers and printers and paper cutters.  I just love quaint, meaningful items from the past.

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Especially when the people of the past . . .

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. . . turn into the people of my present.  (The modern day “Kenny” and his prom date.)

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Speaking of things from the past, this tray has been in the Smith family ever since I started showing up there 32 years ago.  It has held a variety of items  over the years but on this recent Christmas, its assigned job was to provide a home for the eggnog glasses. 

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Meagan was experimenting with taking pictures where the foreground was clear and background was fuzzy; she took the pictures of the glasses and the pool table and did a great job.  Nice to have another photographer in the family.

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On Tuesday morning when we got up, we found pre-cut grapefruit set out for us on the kitchen table.  It’s a pretty nice hotel that cuts the grapefruit for its guests; I think we’ll definitely want to return in the future.

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Unfortunately, the proprietors of this particular establishment did not have the foresight to order up good weather for its departing guests.  Since Steve and Nathan had left at 4 am for their ski trip,  Meagan and I had to don some interesting rain to protect our hair as we loaded the van without our fellas. (Meagan is wearing a grocery bag; I am wearing a gardening hat.  Try not to be jealous.)

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As we drove away in the cold, pouring rain, we left behind memories of the fun, the food, and the joy that are wrapped up in the celebration of Christmas.  Our entire family’s special joy this year was being joined by Meagan—our brand new Smith family member.

It was truly a merry Charlotte Christmas.

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May I just mention that this is the last time I will need to respond to the comments in a post?
When the new site is up, we can all reply to each other right in the comments area.  How fun will that be? 
I’m looking forward to all the conversations we will have.

And speaking of comments, I want to thank those of you who left such interesting and thought provoking entries on the recent writing I posted by Anne Lamott.  We’ve got some deep thinkers and great writers among us Smithellaneous folks; I love it!

And from other posts . . . 


Kristina said, “The word 'Arctic' should be capitalized, particularly when being used as a noun although convention is changing and it is now usually capitalized at all times. I generally don't point such things out because it makes people mad, but I know your affinity for language and writing and thought you might be one of the few humans who prefers to be told!”

Kristina,  how right you are!  I am definitely one of the few humans who prefers to be told about this kind of stuff—thanks so much for taking the time to let me know.   I now consider my knowledge to be properly Arctic-ized.”

Pam D. said, “Yay for a better blogging platform! I think I have 4 blogs now; I hopped from Blogger to to And photography was the driving reason; Blogger is fine for.. well.. blogging. But if photography is a big part of what you post, it's not so great. Can't wait to see what you end up with (and I distinctly remember when Smithellaneous started... and am proud to have played a small role in the naming thereof!).”

For those of you who may not know the story, when I was looking for a name for my blog almost three years ago, I asked some of my readers for suggestions.  I got a whole bunch of great ideas but when Pam emailed me with the name, “Smithellany” I was hooked.   I changed it slightly to Smithellaneous (since I figured more people were familiar with the word miscellaneous rather than miscellany) and we were good to go.  I have gotten so many compliments on the blog’s name and I owe it all to Pam’s great idea!

And finally, a more serious comment . . .

Katmayo said, “Years ago, when my daughter Jessica was stillborn, I wrote, and wrote and ... I used it to expel the horrid sadness that took my life into darkness. I continued to write until the miracle birth of my daughter Rachael Lynn. I stopped writing, but so enjoyed reading the wonderful writings and artwork of my sweet Rachael. When Rachael died 3/1/2003, I tried to write again, but my ability with words couldn't touch my sadness. I am still struggling, all these years later, to find release. Writing helped me with the loss of my Jessica, but nothing, so far, has touched the pain of my Rachael's loss...maybe someday.”

Kathie,  you’ve been reading here for a long, long time and I’m so glad you’re a part of this circle.  I’m always honored when people share the hard parts of their lives and you have certainly had many hard and horrible things to face over these past years.

I’ve read Rachel’s writings and seen her artwork and I know that the gift of excellent writing runs in your family.   When the time is right, I believe you will write again--to honor Jessica, to honor Rachael and to honor your own voice.  Prayers and hugs to you today.        Love, Becky


Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Smithellaneous Change

Nine years ago this month, Sarah was having a bone marrow transplant at Duke. 

Nine years ago this month, I started blogging.

It’s amazing to me that some of you who are reading this post right now joined the Smith family journey all those years ago.  (And by the way, if you’re someone who has been reading since Sarah’s early hospital days, please leave a quick comment—I’d love to see how many of you fit the category of “vintage” Smith friends.)

And for those of you who have come along more recently?  I’m thrilled that you’re here because it’s always a joy to cross paths with new friends. If it wasn’t for you—my old and new readers--I would have no reason to blog, no reason to sit down at a computer and type out the story of our lives.  So thank you all a hundred times over; I’m more grateful for my blog friends than you could possibly know.

My blogging has undergone a few changes over the years. I started out on Caringbridge (a blog service for families with health issues) and for the first couple of years wrote posts largely centered around Sarah’s illness and treatment;  however, as she (thankfully) began to get better, I branched out more to general family posts.  I didn’t include pictures way back then because I just didn’t know how’; at this point in my life, though, I can’t imagine blogging without pictures since I love photography almost as much as I love writing. 

Almost three years ago, I made the decision to transition from Caringbridge to a more general blog, although our Caringbridge site is still up.  And may I just add that if you ever have a little extra time to spend, read back through some of those archives; they contain some of my favorite stories and some of my favorite writing.

And so that all brings us up to right now.

And right now brings us to more changes. Good changes.

As a little bit of background, for the past year or so I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the limitations I’ve run into with Blogger, the platform that currently hosts Smithellaneous.  However, I was a bit intimidated about making any changes because tech speak is not my first language and Blogger is well suited to people with limited technical knowledge.

But hey.  In March, I will turn fifty years old.  And even though you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I think there is a good chance that a middle-aged lady like myself can learn a new thing or two.  

Which brings me to the point of this post.  (And yes, there is a point.  If you were starting to wonder.)

Starting on Saturday, the switch over to my new blog home will take place which means that Smithellaneous will be off line for a couple days while this middle aged mama frantically tries to learn the “new tricks” necessary to take the blog to a new level.   And when I say a new level, I mean exactly that.  The new blogging platform is unlimited in its features and opportunities for creativity in presentation, photography display, blog posts, reader interaction, design, etc. 

I am really, really pumped about this transition but also a little scared. (But that’s okay.)

As far as the nuts and bolts of the move go, my original goal was to move all the material from this site over to the new one; however, as I’ve consulted with some tech people about that, I’ve discovered that while the text would transfer just fine , the pictures would not.  And since I really don’t feel like moving a thousand or so pictures one by one, I decided that the best thing to do is to leave everything here that’s already here and let this spot serve as a sort of Smithellaneous Archives.  That means I’ll be starting from scratch in my new Smithellaneous home, which will be a liberating and fun experience. 

If you’re wondering what complicated technical hoops you might have to jump through in order to get to the new site, here is the address:

There now. Now wasn’t that easy?  The very same address you’re already using will take you straight to the new site.  (I love simple stuff.) 

And if you want to come here to this current site, you’ll just type in 

Also, to make things even more easy for you, I will be adding clickable links to each site which will take you back and forth between the two sites in about half a second.

So anyway, that’s the news on the blog switch front.  Thanks in advance for your patience as the changeover is made; it will probably take a couple weeks to get everything exactly the way I want it in my new home but the end result will be more than worth it.

Have I mentioned how excited I am?

And now to reward you for slogging through paragraph after paragraph of technical stuff, here are a few photos to close with.

Sarah and Meagan asked me to take their picture because they were so impressed that they dressed exactly the same without even without planning it, sporting pink and brown tops, jeans, and Sperry’s.

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I’m posting the next two pictures for no reason whatsoever except for that they strike me funny. 

We were attempting to flip the mattress with just Steve, Sarah and me  (which I truly didn’t think was possibly) and Steve made such dramatic grunting noises as he gradually shouldered the mattress into an upright position that I stopped helping and just started giggling.  And may I just say that a giggling wife is not a real helpful person when it comes to mattress flipping?

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Steve is no doubt standing and wondering just what kind of loony tunes wife he married all those years ago.

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Speaking of things that make me giggle, we were attempting a different “take” on a family Christmas photo and along the way, tried this one which turned out to be a little on the goofy side.  (As well as not being very well focused.)

Nathan and Meagan are trying very hard not to giggle.

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We finally ended up with this one, which is not real great (it was too dark and I had to lighten it to the point where it looks a little funky) but at least we got something to commemorate Meagan’s first Christmas as a Smith.

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Are they a great pair, or what?



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: The Manteo Edition

Okay. So here’s the deal.  

I announced a couple weeks ago that Wedding Wednesdays would be coming to a close because I was running short on official wedding pictures to post.   But I have some good news on that front.

Nathan and Meagan’s photographer is going to be sending me the wedding pictures in a format that preserves their original resolution which will be great because there were some pictures I wanted to post but wasn’t able to because of the low resolution. (Due to them being transferred from computer to computer.) So when I receive those pictures, I will be able to post a few more from The Actual Big Day.  (And everyone said, “Hooray!”)

Also, I now have a copy of the video of the wedding; however, it’s in a format that I can’t load on my computer. I’m talking to a video guy I know in hopes of getting that whole puzzlement figured out so that I can post a few video snippets.

In the meantime, there’s even more wedding photo news!  

As of last Friday, a whole new crop of Nathan and Meagan wedding pictures came into existence.  And just how did that happen?

Well, Meagan asked me several months ago if I would be willing to take some wedding pictures of her and Nathan when they came to Manteo for Christmas.  Because of time limitations on their wedding day, they hadn’t gotten as many photos of just the two of them as they would have liked.

Well, when she first asked me, my response was to say yes and and to get all excited about it because I love the two of them and of course I love taking pictures. What’s not to be excited about?

But then as I started thinking about it some more, I got worried.

“Oh dear,” said I to myself, “What have I done? Why did I say yes?  I’m not a real photographer like their wonderful wedding photographers, Kristen and Chris.   I’m still not exactly sure what I’m doing and what if Meagan goes to all the trouble of bringing her dress and getting all decked out and I take horrible, awful pictures?”

And then, as I pondered and worried further, I thought that maybe if I just took hundreds and hundreds of shots over the course of our session, just possibly two or three of them might turn out okay and Meagan and Nathan won’t be too terribly disappointed in my feeble photography efforts.

So that was my big plan: the utilization of Scattershot Photography.  Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more and eventually you should hit on something good. (Feel free to tell everyone you know about this amazing photography tool.)

And so last Friday, Nathan, Meagan, Sarah and I took off on a Picture Taking Adventure around Manteo. We got stares, applause, comments, and smiles and I ended up with a rough estimate of one bazillion pictures.  I also gave Sarah my purse camera so that she could join me in the snapping frenzy and with the Scattershot Photography Tip going full steam, we actually managed to get some really lovely shots.

So the good news is that if you all are still up for it,  Wedding Wednesday can continue on for a while longer yet because we’ve got some new beautiful, fun photos to share and some cool stories to go with them. 


So.  Having said all that? 

Welcome to Wedding Wednesday: The Manteo Edition

As soon as Nathan and Meagan arrived in Manteo, she unpacked her gown and hung it in Sarah’s room to let the wrinkles fall out. It was actually a little sobering for this mama to see a wedding dress hanging in my 16-year old daughter’s room because all I could think was, “Someday, that will be Sarah’s dress hanging there.”   (sniff)

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One of the funniest parts of the whole experience was watching Nathan (in his ubiquitous t-shirt and basketball shorts) help get Meagan into her dress.  Obviously he didn’t have that particular privilege before their real wedding so he lacked a bit of practical experience as a Wedding Dress Donning Assistant.  But he was an awfully good sport . . .

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even during those times when he wasn’t sure if he should be hands on . . .

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or hands off.

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I especially love this shot.

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After the dress was finally in place . . .

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Nathan morphed from The Dresser of the Bride to the Carrier of the Bridal Gown Train. He’s one multi talented fella, that’s for sure.

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Sarah joined her brother in their appointed mission of getting the bride untrippingly from the third floor to the second floor of our home.

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It was quite the undertaking.

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Once they had safely made it down the stairs, Meagan did some final touch ups to her make up while Nathan exchanged the shorts for a suit.

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It was so fun watching the two of them get ready and sharing their joy.

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And then it was, “Here Comes the Bride” all over again.

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Meagan helped Nathan do some little adjustments on his suit and then . . .

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. . . it was out the door for the adventure!

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Here’s a sneak peak of a couple pictures we took while we were out and about. 

Oops.  Wrong one.

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Okay. that’s better!

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There now. Wasn’t that fun? 

Looking forwarding to many more Wedding Wednesdays to come!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Turn Off Twitter. And Don’t Clean The House.

The title of this post is taken from an article I read earlier this morning by Anne Lamott, a fabulous, incredible writer.    I don’t usually make posts of other people’s writing, but since we’re at the beginning of a new year and since this article by Anne impacted me so deeply, I want to share it with you all.

Before we get to it though, let me just mention that tomorrow I’ll be doing a Wedding Wednesday that you won’t want want to miss!

And now . . . here’s Anne. I’d love for you to leave a comment and share with the rest of us what you thought about what she wrote.



Time Lost and Found

I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief—and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions—that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.

Needless to say, this is very distressing for my writing students. They start to explain that they have two kids at home, or five, a stable of horses or a hive of bees, and 40-hour workweeks. Or, on the other hand, sometimes they are climbing the walls with boredom, own nearly nothing, and are looking for work full-time, which is why they can’t make time now to pursue their hearts’ desires. They often add that as soon as they retire, or their last child moves out, or they move to the country, or to the city, or sell the horses, they will. They are absolutely sincere, and they are delusional.

I often remember the story from India of a beggar who sat outside a temple, begging for just enough every day to keep body and soul alive, until the temple elders convinced him to move across the street and sit under a tree. Years of begging and bare subsistence followed until he died. The temple elders decided to bury him beneath his cherished tree, where, after shoveling away a couple of feet of earth, they found a stash of gold coins that he had unknowingly sat on, all those hand-to-mouth years.

You already have the gold coins beneath you, of presence, creativity, intimacy, time for wonder, and nature, and life. Oh, yeah, you say? And where would those rascally coins be?

This is what I say: First of all, no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor. Otherwise, you are mostly going to learn more than you need to know about where the local fires are, and how rainy it has been: so rainy! That is half an hour, a few days a week, I tell my students. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book.

If they have to get up early for work and can’t stay up late, I ask them if they are willing NOT to do one thing every day, that otherwise they were going to try and cram into their schedule.

They may explain that they have to go to the gym four days a week or they get crazy, to which I reply that that’s fine—no one else really cares if anyone else finally starts to write or volunteers with marine mammals. But how can they not care and let life slip away? Can’t they give up the gym once a week and buy two hours’ worth of fresh, delectable moments? (Here they glance at my butt.)

Can they commit to meeting one close friend for two hours every week, in bookstores, to compare notes? Or at an Audubon sanctuary? Or a winery?

They look at me bitterly now—they don’t think I understand. But I do—I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?

If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way?

I ask them, is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tide pools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?

If so, what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for.

Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?

I think it’s going to hurt. What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Saga of the Slimy Oysters

(Before I get to today’s post, I’d like to take a minute to wish my most wonderful husband a happy thirtieth anniversary.  No one knows me better, understands me better, or loves me better. I’m so thankful for the past three decades of marriage to this truly amazing man.)

When we went to Charlotte for Christmas, Steve got the handy dandy idea of taking along some fresh scallops and oysters. I mean what’s the sense of residing by the sea if you can’t share its bounty with those you love?

I was fine with the scallops.  They’re actually pretty good wrapped in bacon and cooked on the grill.  But oozy oysters in a shell?  Ick.  I figured as long as those nasty creatures stayed at least one hundred feet from my person at all times, we could coexist in a fairly peaceable manner.

And so we arrived in Charlotte and the Oyster/Scallop Hors D’oeuvres Extravaganza Preceding the Christmas Feast began.

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Nathan absolutely loved the scallops but wasn’t too keen about the thought of eating a steamed oyster.  However, when I offered to give him $5 to try one, he didn’t even blink.  Cash-strapped newlyweds are all about earning a little extra moola.

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Vernie required no bribe at all; she just sat right down, got the oyster arranged on a cracker and munched it on down.  (And may I just say that she has the most beautiful skin.  Can you believe she’s a great grandma?)

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Steve’s younger brother, Jeff, was in fine form during the extravaganza, doing the Heeby Jeeby Dance as a way of poking fun at those of us who were sitting on the sidelines, shuddering with horror at the very thought of eating oily oysters.  (If you didn’t know, the Heeby Jeeby Dance involves sticking both arms out and waving them around while turning in a circle.  Jeff got lots of practice at it.)

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The Smith Men (Steve’s dad, two brothers, and Nathan) continued to enjoy their seafood mini in charlotte 059

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Everyone was having a great time and everything was going along just swimmingly when suddenly, inexplicably, the mood changed.

Things turned ugly. 

Eyes turned toward . . . me. 

“Me?” I squeaked pitifully?  “You want me to eat an oyster?  I think NOT!” 

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I took a few steps back  from the proceedings so that the alien nasty oysters couldn’t crawl out of their slippery shells and start stalking me around the deck.  I was absolutely appalled at the thought of putting any slimy gray creature from the sea into my mouth.

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However.  Some arm twisting proceeded to commence and after trying to say no seventeen different ways, the situation eventually degenerated to the horrific point where a little oyster fella perched himself on a cracker and headed my way.

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I cannot believe I am smiling at the oyster; I should have been screaming and gagging.


From that point on, it was not a happy sight.  I am sparing you the worst of the faces I made, but I’m sure you can tell by the ones I’ve included that the whole experience was ranked right up there with childbirth in the Enjoyment Department. (That white thing is a napkin that Steve gallantly applied to my person before the trauma began.)

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In closing, I would love to say that a good time was had by all; however, the oysters and I would have to respectfully disagree.

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(All photos by Meagan Smith)


Rachel said, “Just love these pictures...  I can't help but wonder what the temperature is in your house. It seems like Nathan is usually wearing shorts and a t-shirt when he is home...yet Meagan is in a sweat shirt and the rest of you are somewhere in between. lol”

Rachel, that is a very good question.  I truly think that if Nathan lived on an iceberg in the arctic, he would still choose to put on his t-shirt and basketball shorts.   So I guess you should get your hints as to our house’s temp from our clothes—NOT his!  (And we keep it at about 71 degrees.)

Lizz wrote, “Sue G, your post (comment) brought tears to my eyes! Favorite parts "and especially for the miracle of the Life about Whom we celebrate this season" and "What I like about LOVE is that it can't be bought...but it sure can be returned!!!!" I love the last one so so much! I'm going to use it as much as possible! Wishing you many more Christmases!”

Lizz, I just love it when people use this forum to build other people up.  And if anyone deserves a compliment on writing, it would be our friend, Sue.  Thanks for drawing attention to yet another one of her wonderfully penned comments.

BloggerKaren said,  “Off topic: I would like to share Sarah's story with this family (, but wanted to check with you first. I would love to give them some hope for their little Adler.”

Karen, we would love for you to share Sarah’s story. Giving hope is what it’s all about!