Tag Archives: summer

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.




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.


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…



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


When Everything Has Gone to the Dogs

I know that summer break is a time to slow down, break routine, relax the rules a bit. I have to admit that I am very good at this. I really know how to take it easy. In fact I am practically a professional at relaxing the rules and breaking routine.

I guess I hadn’t realized just how good I was at this until the summer break ended and I realized that everything had gone to the dogs.



Trio of dogs

Chester, Hattie and Charlotte

We have three dogs–two English springer spaniels (litter mates) and a chocolate lab mix–and as I’m sure you can imagine, things can get a bit wild around our house at times. It is particularly rough going letting them out into the backyard and at feeding time.

Let’s just say there is a reason they are called springer spaniels.

Hattie and Michael

Hattie–with her feline playmate, Curry–hoping that more food will magically appear on Michael’s plate.

The dynamics within this trio are quite interesting (actually it’s a quartet if you include the cat). The “twins” as we call them (Hattie and Chester) couldn’t be more different in temperament.

Chester and Charlotte

Chester and Charlotte hang out together

Chester is very cool. He clearly understands his place in the pack–“top dog” but is submissive to the human boss. He has great social skills, follows instructions, enjoys playing but also loves to chill out with a bone on the floor.



Chester and Cameron

Chester is the best snuggler

Hattie, on the other hand, is a very anxious dog. She is easily distracted, barks constantly, won’t follow commands unless food is involved and her only animal playmate is the cat.




Hattie. Enough said.

Charlotte, the chocolate lab mix, is a classic rescue dog–a little fearful at first but smart, protective, attentive and friendly.



We spent a good deal of time and money last year training them and they definitely became more manageable. But like any good habit, it is a slippery slope into bedlam.

At first it might just be a nudge of the hand with their nose. Come on. Pet me. You know I look cute. You give in without giving it a second thought.

twins again

Then they jump up “to greet you” at the front door. Oh look how excited they are to see me, you say to yourself.

The barking and circling as you put dog food in their bowls you simply chalk up to hunger. I shouldn’t have made them wait so long for dinner, the poor pups. They are starving!

The next thing you know you have three very large and smelly canines laying across you on the sofa. Isn’t this sweet. They just love me so much and they want to cuddle with their mama!

Dogs in control

Dogs in control

When left to their own devices, this pack is a mess.

Yep. This is where I was last week. I had hit bottom. I had ignored the warnings from my husband, the pleas from my daughter. I just couldn’t admit that I needed help.

Somehow I found the strength–no, the courage–to reach out for help.

I called the dog trainer. Help was on its way!

She paid us a visit yesterday and after a little more than an hour of time working with me, reminding me of the techniques and tools and encouraging me, I began to feel empowered again.

No more chaos around meal time. No more jumping six feet in the air to get outside. No more shoving me off of the sofa.

I am the top dog around here! Grrrrrr….

Top dog?

Top dog?


Edisto: Old School Beach Vacation, Part Two

The second half of our week away at Edisto Beach was just as great as the first half. The weather at the beach held out for most of the week. Unfortunately our friends in Charleston were not so lucky and one friend who was expected to join us was stuck in town. In the end we hosted lots of friends–and loads of God sons! We are truly blessed.

Now, back to the real world…

Click here to see part one of Edisto: Old School Beach Vacation


Not all sunshine

Not all sunshine


Sweet George

Sweet George

Morning ninja moves

Morning ninja moves

Sea turtle nest


Where are they?

Where are they?

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sea oats



Impromptu picnic below stairs

Impromptu picnic below stairs


The race

The race





Boys / Photo by James McKinney



Good bye

Good bye

img_3142 (1)

Packing up

Packing up


Until next summer

Until next summer / Photo by Michael K. Smith, Aug 2013

All photos are by Amy Watson Smith unless otherwise indicated (August 2013)

Ravenel Bridge to Charleston

The Changing Nature of Nature

The August Break 2013Day 19

When I left my home in Mount Pleasant this morning the sky was blue and the sun was out. As  I headed across the Ravenel Bridge to downtown Charleston, I was surprised to see that the sky over the city was really dark.

Ravenel Bridge to Charleston

Ravenel Bridge to Charleston

I love driving across the bridge when the sky is so dark. The white cables on the bridge really pop.

Island popping

The gray sky turns the green on Drum Island chartreuse.

Once I hit the Crosstown and turned on to Rutledge Avenue the rain started.

Bottom drops out on Rutledge

At the next stoplight, the rain came down harder but the sun was shining. I had to put back on my sunglasses.

sun and rain

A few blocks further down Rutledge Avenue, the rain slowed to a stop.

downtown Charleston

Two blocks away the rain started again.

New Street

Heading back across the bridge, I had to put on my shades again and turn on the windshield wipers.

Bridge home

Back home in Mount Pleasant–only 30 minutes later–I was back in the sun and no rain was in sight.

Classic Lowcountry weather.

Edisto: Old School Beach Vacation

The August Break 2013, Days 10-14

A week away at Edisto Beach, South Carolina with family and friends–old school.

Edisto Beach 1

Trio of teens

A trio of teens

Trio of teens up close

Trio of teens totem

Teen totem

Edisto Shag

Afternoon at beach followed by the shag. Classic Carolina.

The Girls

Boiled peanuts, wine and girl friends…

Water station

Edisto tap water is only good for cooking grits.

Water station 2

Reverse osmosis water at the fire station


Water play

Water play 2

Shark Week is Scary

Shark Week is scary.


Edisto beach view

Wake up teenager

Only these two can wake this teenager with out getting hit.

Shark boy

Shark boy ready for the beach.

I Hart the Beach

Godbrother Godsister

Beach view

Edisto Beach 2





Storm approaches

Time to go

Clouds gathering

Vegetable stand

Cheating on tomato pie

Always moving

Take flight

Apparently everyone on Edisto goes to the Piggly Wiggly when it rains

Apparently everyone on Edisto goes to the Piggly Wiggly when it rains

The Cost of Costco

The August Break 2013, Day Seven

I went to Costco yesterday to buy things for our week at Edisto beach (South Carolina) next week.

Cost of Costco

Surprise. I bought a lot of things not on my list.

Surprise. The bill was really big.

This is why I don’t go to Costco very often.

I looked over the receipt when I got home and realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought initially. Once I subtracted the items that are really for home, the bill was a third less. Then when I considered that I was buying food for seven days, three meals a day plus snacks for 6-12 people (and some are teenagers), I realized that it was really about $7 per person per day. Okay. Not bad at all–a bargain in fact. I feel much better.

We decided to rent this beach house for a week because we wanted a place to relax before the busyness of fall set in. We also thought that since Edisto is only an hour and a half from Charleston that it would be a great opportunity to invite our friends down to enjoy a day or two before the end of summer. Thankfully a number of friends have accepted our invitation and we will have a variety of people in and out all week long. We can’t wait!

I guess the cost of Costco is not so great after all.

By the way, I will be making delicious Edisto tomato pie. Click here for my recipe. I imagine shrimp and grits will be on the menu as well. Naturally we will be picking up our Geechie Boy Grits from our dear friends Betsy and Greg Johnsman at Geechie Boy Market and Mill on Edisto Island. Click here, here and here to read more about them.