Category Archives: writing

When a Break Turns Into a Sabbatical

I’m back. I took a little break from writing and blogging this summer thinking I would be back at the keyboard by late-August or early September…it is now October 13. I suppose that is more of a sabbatical than a break. I didn’t expect that I needed or could even tolerate this much time away from writing. I guess I was wrong.

I stepped away from my laptop in June for family and for personal reasons. I will be writing more about both of these in future posts. In short, I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter before she started her senior year and I needed some time to process some things privately. I was concerned that if I continued to blog I would process publicly–and prematurely. Given these few months, I know I made the right decision in both of these cases.

The time away also allowed me time to get started on some much-needed and long-overdue projects around our house. I will be posting regularly about our “Take Back Our House Project.” I have some great before and after photographs, will share some of our dirty, little secrets and the solutions we have found. We are still very much in the process of this project and will be continuing to work on it throughout the year.For a sneak preview, check out my Instagram posts.

I’d love to hear from you about your own projects: how do you get started, what keeps you motivated, how you juggle the long process with living life, etc.

So…I am glad to be back. I am determined to keep writing and to continue to share my journey and struggles, battles and blessings.

God’s peace, my friends.

Amy

 

Bicycles

The Magic of Summer

There is just something wonderful about the beginning of summer. Maybe it is the freedom that we–even as adults–feel once school has ended. Or maybe it is the lengthening of days and the vegetable stands and sunburned skin.

field

I was reminded of the magic of a summer evening as I drove along a rural portion of a South Carolina interstate earlier this week. Mesmerized by the way the trees filtered the late afternoon/early evening sun, I watched as dust particles danced like fairies in the space between the trees and grass. My mind slipped easily back to a day in my childhood–summer 1974–in the small, mid-Western town of my youth…

 

SUMMER 1974–PARKVILLE

A chair pushes back, side door opens and the screen door slams shut. The mother’s voice yells unheard to the girl bare feet, bed-messed hair, eyes minutes from sleep. The girl pauses on the steps and surveys the yard feeling the warmth of the sun on her cheeks and shoulders.

Screen door

Her head snaps to the right, hair flying as the dog runs barking towards her. Slobbers and paws and too much fur greet her. Laughing she pushes the part-collie, part-cocker spaniel, part-dachshund aside and races down the stairs jump-stepping onto the stones with grass creeping around the edges. Finally—bare feet already hardened sink into cool, soft, blue-green blades. The day stretches out before her for miles.

Grass

The phone has already rung. Secret plans have already been whispered. The girl moves to the back of the old house picking her way across the sharp gravel to the dark, cool basement dug into the hill. Quickly, to avoid the spiders and bugs and musty smell, she retrieves her bike: purple frame, glitter banana seat, name plate, tall fluorescent flag to catch the wind.

Sidewalk

Scrambling up the slope, she makes her way to the street and hops on. She pedals the flat stretch of road passing one, two, three, four Victorian houses. Then there is the hill. The hill where the car slammed into one of Dr. Donnelly’s Saint Bernards laying in the street smashing the front of the car while the huge monster lumbered across to its home. The hill that she flies down but dreads pushing the bike back up. The hill that the girl’s father walks daily down into the town and up onto the college campus.

Pedaling faster and faster to gain speed, she sails down the hill, trees and leaves and grass and houses all swooshing past. Finally hill turns flat and she pedals on to the house with white picket fence—the manse for the Presbyterian preacher and his family. The house with the quiet, serious, best friend. The house tidy and smelling of cooking and mother always home. The backyard a long slow slope covered in vinca vines sprinkled with purple flowers. The large bedroom on the second floor with two beds for sisters who read and play piano and study.

Picket fence

Slowly the group gathers at this house—white haired fairy-like girl, tough tom boy from two blocks away, smiling little sister of best friend, street-wise blond with the bad mouth and the parents divorced. An odd crew—best friends on street, strangers at school.

Alliances form. Negotiations begin. A decision made. Whatever the outcome—riding bikes to the creek, picnic under the trees at the college’s playing fields, roller skating in the freshly paved parking lot of the church, walking down the next hill into town to Ernie’s pharmacy for candy or escaping the heat or rain in the basement of the house playing school or acting out plays—we are all in. No complaining, no do-overs, no crybabies.

Pharmacy

As the day draws to a close the group disperses and heads to their respective homes and dinner. The girl walks her bike up the hill with the white-haired girl whose house is in the middle of the incline. Bikes dropping on the sidewalk, the two run up the driveway to the back yard, through a hole in the fence, across the neighbor’s yard into the dainty garden next door.

Strawberries

Crouching, crawling across still hot paving stones to the mounds of variegated, scalloped leaves with fingers gingerly reaching trying to grasp the small, sweet, dark red strawberries. Popping as many in their mouths as possible, they stuff pockets while always looking and watching for the old woman. One day, a few summers later, the girls were caught but the old woman invited them to take as many strawberries as they wanted. That was last summer of sneaking the berries. Now mouths and pockets full, the girls race back across the neighbor’s lawn with hearts pounding, down the driveway back to their tangle of bikes.

image

Waving goodbye to the friend, the girl pushes her bike up the steep hill past the house where she picked out her kitten-now-cat—a bribe from her parents to go to first grade without a fuss. To her right the narrow island of grass and trees calls to her to step inside its secrets. The woods with so many lost balls and the old woman who kept them.

1338 Main Street, Parkville MO

The gray clapboard house peeks over the hill and the girl picks up speed ready for dinner and questions about the day. The father stands in the garden—a small plot of land carved from the lawn—amidst the asparagus going to seed and squash and tomatoes. The girl joins him half-listening to the lessons of gardening and mulching, skimming her hands over the tops of the riotous zinnias.

Riotous zinnias

Armed with their bounty, the girl and her father enter the kitchen to smells of chicken and rice and butter beans cooking. With the tomatoes sliced and the table set, the girl, her parents and brother settle in for the meal and talk. Later, plates cleared, the girl and her father load the dishwasher. Again the lessons half-heard on the proper way to rinse and load.

After the bath, the girl pulls a clean cotton gown over her head. Hair still wet and feet clean and prunish, the girl follows the voices of her parents out into the side yard. Fireflies flicker across the grass. Chasing a few, the girl finds herself at the hammock—the one purchased two summers ago on the island in South Carolina white ropes crisscrossing. Climbing in she pushes off from the ground gliding slowly back and forth, back and forth. Arms supporting her head, the girl looks into the dark sky that peeks between the two huge oak trees counting the stars. A breeze rustles the cotton gown body underneath all clean and scrubbed. Parents’ voices trail off, the girl closes her eyes.

Good night moon

Photographs by Amy Watson Smith, 2013 and 2014

This was originally posted in May 2013 as Summer 1974-Parkville.

 

How I Start My Week

Monday morning from my perspective: setting priorities

This is what Monday looks like from my perspective. Coffee, old school planner, iPhone, iPad, camera, pen, more coffee. In my pajamas. Surrounded by my hounds.

This is how I start my week.

I know that I am fortunate to be able to start the week this way. I am blessed to be able to spend this season of my life only working out of my home part-time. I am lucky to have the opportunity to explore my passion for writing and photography and to have time being creative.

So I sit on the sofa in the den in my pajamas with my three dogs barking and running in circles (or sometimes chewing their bones), the cat is perched on the pillow by my side and I try to plan my day, my week, my year.

I update calendars, make appointments, brainstorm blog post ideas, plan the editorial calendar for my blog, shoot a few photos, begin a draft post or two and try to finish at least one that I can publish this week. I research ideas, read new posts from my favorite bloggers and comment when appropriate. I look through emails, check Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts and try to respond in turn. Finally I check my site statistics to see whether anyone has even read my latest post.

Seems like a lot of work . . . but for what purpose? Sometimes I wonder about this. And I know that my husband certainly does.

But I love what I am doing–writing, taking photos, blogging about my journey, . . . this gives me joy, makes my heart sing, stirs my creative juices and, ultimately, makes me a happier mama and wife. My two days of doing what I love energizes and enthuses me for the rest of the week.

I am thankful to the Lord and to my husband and daughter for allowing me the time to see where this “work” will take me.

This is how I start my week. With dreams and plans and ideas and pajamas.

How do you start your week? Are you a planner or a dreamer? Do you carefully set priorities or do you just jump into the week and see where it will take you?

 

How to Silence the Voice of Doubt

Just write

Just fifteen minutes. That is all it will take. Fifteen minutes a day. A few thoughts on paper—just words.

Maybe this is what I should have been telling myself every morning. Maybe then I would have actually gotten past the nausea and the scrambled thoughts to just do this simple thing: write.

Instead I allow my mornings to evaporate, my afternoons become full of domestic chores or errands or other people, other things.

But in the back of my mind comes the voice I have learned to dread but also believe: “You have nothing to say. No one is interested in your words. You are irrelevant, middle aged, mediocre and plain dull. Why waste your time and energy on this project that no one—not even you—really cares about?” The voice of doubt.

This is not the first time I have heard this voice. The words may be different but the voice is undoubtedly the same.

There seems to always come a time for me when the boldness and bravado that comes with the beginning of a new venture wears thin. The flimsy skeletal structure emerges and the vast pockets of self-doubt, discouragement and fear show through.

My nature is to jump into things. Throw caution to the wind. My energy and passion blinds me (and others) to my own inexperience and ignorance. This is what I refer to as my “smoke and mirrors” phase. It takes a little while before I realize just how little I know and how over my head I am.

Ah. This is the critical juncture. What to do next?

Enter The Voice.

“You are a fraud. You have no business doing this. You will be found out and everyone will discover that you don’t know what you are doing.”

A few times I have somehow managed to push through and in doing so, I have silenced the voice.

But all too often I have given in, busied myself with other, safer things and allowed the voice of doubt win the battle.

It takes courage to learn a new thing, to try your hand at something you suspect you might fail at, to answer a call you feel completely ill-equipped to handle.

The battle is won when you simply take a step forward and say, “Here I am, Lord.”

Moving Ahead While Looking Back

Amy Watson Smith

This is the time of year that most people look ahead, plan, make resolutions. But it is also a time for reflection, a time of looking back, assessing and reassessing. This is a time to learn from your mistakes.

Believe me when I say that I love to move on. I fully appreciate the value of a clean slate. I am a planner so the start of a new year is welcome and full of possibilities.

At the same time I am an historian, a writer, an observer. I have known for many years how important it is for me to learn from the past–my past.

I try to reflect during the Christmas holidays but it seems it is just too busy and full of activity even if the activity is basically non-activity (e.g., reading books, taking naps, eating, talking with family, eating,…). Every New Year’s Day I am shocked that I haven’t really done the thoughtful preparation that I meant to do and instead scribble a few generic resolutions on my [symbolic] list.

And every year a week or two into January I realize that I have not followed through on any of these resolutions. I might feel a twinge of guilt or disappointment in myself for a few seconds but I wasn’t really invested in those things anyway, I tell myself.

This year I am trying something a bit different. I am using the month of January as a time to look back and reflect as well as a time to begin crafting some thoughtful goals. I am focusing on learning some things about myself, asking myself some difficult questions and looking around for resources that might help me.

I want to know why I am doing what I am doing (or why I am not doing something I should be doing). I want to be invested in my future. I want to live intentionally, to be authentic and to love wholly. I want to learn from others and to share my experiences.

I have invested in several tools that I believe will be useful and I will share these resources and some of the results on my blog. I will continue to document my journey both verbally and visually though I have not decided yet how my editorial calendar will be affected by this period of reflection, learning and planning. Once I have figured this out, I will post about it here.

I hope that you will continue to check in on my blog and to share with me your thoughts about my posts as well your own experiences in looking back and moving forward.

Blessings for 2014!

Amy

 

Goodbye 2013: A Year in Review

As 2013 draws to a close, I thought I would share with you several of my most popular posts and my favorite images. Thank you for reading!

When Everything Has Gone to the Dogs

Chester, one of the "twins"--English Springer Spaniels

Never underestimate the popularity of dogs or babies. This was the favorite post according to my readers.

Game Day Done Right: Road Trip to Ole Miss

Ole Miss Road Trip

Another popular post was the one documenting the road trip we took to our alma mater, Ole Miss, with our daughter and her friend. Read about it here.

These are some of my favorite images from the blog from 2013 in slideshow format.

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Happy New Year!