Dear Quarantine Diary – Week #30

Tags

, , ,


Dear Diary – There’s one in every crowd.

On Thursday, I set up the memory verse activity before the opening session. I hid pieces of Lego with cardstock pieces of the memory verse taped to them. One kid noticed and asked the session leader “how did the Lego die?”.

I don’t know what her answer was, but I’m thinking this little piece of Lego passed peacefully after escaping his blue plastic prison in Sector Nursery!

There’s nothing quite like a horde of kids swarming the sanctuary in search of treasure. I made sure we left enough time for them to hide the pieces for the next group. Which mostly worked. Some kids hid pieces, while others still ran around collecting them. We lost an entire piece of Lego, but not the cardstock words. And one group almost had to go without a piece because we just couldn’t find it. They had fun and I survived another day!

Dear Diary – All week long I felt like a celebrity and I didn’t want the feeling to end. Kids would scream my name and wave furiously every time they saw me. One little girl would sit by me during the opening team meeting and talk my ear off. As someone who has never been, and likely won’t ever be, the life of the party, it was pretty cool.

Speaking of party, Friday’s memory verse was a musical video so we learned it while having a “dance party”. It was a 4 minute ” dance party” and by the time the second group left, I knew I was in trouble. I was so hot all I could think about was rolling naked in a snowbank. I was so tired, I just wanted to nap right there on the floor. But I was Ima and I was committed…and there were 3 more groups to go!

Some of the kids were really into it, coordinating moves to the words and dancing on the stage. The oldest group, who were “too cool for school” weren’t into it so I danced alone until I found some balloons and started bouncing them off kids’ heads. I sucked them in and I loved it!

It was an awesome week!

I was so tired and sore on Saturday that I actually spent part of the day watching “When Sharks Attack”. The t.v. remote was out of reach…

Dear Diary – I know wearing masks is awful. They’re hot and uncomfortable. You’re forced to smell your own breath. But I found one advantage. They hide the broccoli in your teeth. 😦

Dear Diary – It’s alive…

Most of my seeds were duds but the basil is ridiculously happy. It grew so much in the 2 weeks I was away that I had a major harvest on my hands. It took me days to wash and process it. Some went straight in the freezer, some were blitzed and made into basil ice cubes, while the rest was dried in the oven. It’s been 4 days and it’s almost time to harvest again.

Dear Diary – I just finished a historical fiction novel about Madame Tussaud! She was a pretty cool chick. The only problem I have is that I can’t get the song, Meltdown at Madame Tussaud‘s out of my head!

Dear Diary – It’s always hard going to new places, even churches. I was part of the worship team this past Sunday where I had served in VBC all week. But while I recognized some faces and hung around after the service, no one came near me. I’ve experienced the same disappointment in other churches, a place where one expects to find “friendly” people. Some people looked at me but glanced away quickly sheepishly, as if I had caught them doing something wrong. I don’t mean to sound critical. I know it takes time to get to know people. And I realize that after being separated so long by Covid, some people are excited to catch up with others. I would be too! 🙂

I suspect I had thicker skin when I was a single parent. When people ignored me or chose to sit far away, I figured the problem was them, not me. I don’t go to church for the social aspect. Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice! But I’m there to worship and serve the Lord.

The thing is, I often hear discussions on how to encourage people to come to church or wondering why people don’t stay. It takes a lot of courage for someone to come some place new, and if they feel like an intruder, or just plain invisible, why would they ever come back? We just need to remember that we’re not just there to hang with our friends.

Dear Diary – I don’t think I’ll ever understand why some people think it’s ok to decide things for me. I have someone who has decided it’s time for me to give up my blue hair and that I need to cut it short. Why? Because I’m too old for long, blue hair. I like my blue hair and short hair makes my nano-head even more pronounced. I may be getting too old for a lot of things, but I’d like to think I still have enough control of my faculties to make that decision for myself!

Dear Diary – Hubby and Little Guy helped me by drying dishes last night. Somehow they turned the whole experience into a series of complicated mathematical equations. I live with nerds (& I love it)!

Dear Diary – My baby is coming to visit this weekend. I haven’t seen him since April. So while it may be raining outside, it’s sunny inside my soul!

Hands up if you’re ready to do something you’ll regret this weekend. Go forth! You have my blessing.

Florence Welch

CFFC: Yellow

Tags

, , , , , , ,


If I had to pick a colour that best epitomized summer, I would have to say yellow. There is something deliciously tantalizing about yellow. It’s bright and happy, and in the summer, I am happiest. Yellow makes me think about all the best things that make summer so special: warm, lazy days with family, a good book in the garden, and golden sunsets on the beach.

This is my post for Cee Neuner’s Fun Foto Challenge: Yellow.

Daffodils in the Spring, Sunflowers in the Fall, but Brown-Eyed Susans for Summer!

Birds and butterflies…

Tea – Hot or iced!

A good book and a blanket for the evening breeze.

And as evening falls…

A golden sunset.

In the world of safe hues, like black, red and white, yellow shouts: ‘Look at me. I’m happy!’

Joy Sewing

Happy Wednesday!

Pineapple Rosemary Ice Pops

Tags

, , , , , , ,


It’s almost 30C outside this morning and we have yet another air quality advisory in effect, thanks to raging wildfires in the north. We’re not in any danger, thankfully, but share the benefits of smoke and smog. But it’s still summer, and while forest fires, ticks, mosquitoes, and hogsweed impact our activities, I’m not ready to give up summer living!

This week, I tried a new recipe for iced pops. I began with the basic recipe from Tasty Recipes, and then I improvised a lillte! 🙂

First I made my sugar-rosemary syrup by bringing sugar, water and a dash of dried rosemary to a gentle boil for 2-3 minutes. Then I set it aside to cool. I didn’t have any fresh rosemary and some dried herbs, like rosemary, can be quite potent. Most chefs recommend 1 tsp. dried rosemary to 3 tsp. fresh! I also knew I didn’t have the required 20 oz (or 2.5 cups of pineapple), so I halved the sugar and skimped on the water. I was worried that by using half the water I risked the syrup boiling dry and ruining my pot! After 2-3 minutes, I set it aside to cool.

A few hours later, I blitzed leftover pineapple and its juice in a blender. It was canned, not frozen, and I didn’t have enough for the 2.5 cups (20 oz.) in the recipe. I strained the sugar-rosemary syrup and added it to the pineapple, along with the lemon juice.

Most likely, messing with the recipe, changed the consistency. I found the mixture quite thick and pulpy, and I couldn’t imagine this being very easy to eat once it was frozen. How to thin it out?

flickr.com

Lightbulb!!

This is where tea came in. I added live wire lemon tea. Not only did it improve the consistency for freezing, but it added flavour. Live Wire Lemon is a is a light lemon tea with grassy notes and just a whisper of warming ginger.

Please be advised…the air quality and humidity may be an issue, but these pineapple rosemary pops are not! They are delish, not overly sweet and certainly a healthier option with fresh fruit. I’ve got all the time in the world to lick back with a good book…

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.

Sam Keen

Dear Quarantine Diary – Week #29

Tags

, , , , ,


Dear Diary – This week, every day feels like Monday because this week is VACATION BIBLE CAMP!

Camp: The only place where “you’re so weird” is considered a compliment!

It means getting up before 7 and getting in the car by 7:45. On the first morning, my radio alarm was singing “It’s a Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals. I distinctly remember snarling, “Is it? Is it really?”.

Covid requires additional planning and preparation so everyone stays safe, and all that takes time. Ash is an amazing wife, Mom and teacher, and she was instrumental in putting this week together! Camp starts at 9 and ends at noon, which means we’re all moving the whole time to make this the best experience for the 40 campers. Others years, camps have had over 100 kids. I’ll admit…I’m finding the 40 enough of a challenge!

I am really excited to share this experience with Little Guy. I was shocked when I casually mentioned that he was invited to help out in the sound booth if he was interested…and he was interested! This is the kid who will sleep past 2 p.m. if you don’t wake him. True to his word, he’s been ready to go every morning. He’s even pants, not pj bottoms!

I’m up. If you’re expecting bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, go catch a squirrel!

This year, I was asked to reprise my role as Ima Victor. I’m pretty sure my performance as a spunky, nerdy, spastic eight-year old with a serious lisp will never be “academy award-worthy” but it seems to make people laugh. And after years of tears, I’m ready to share that laugh. My comedy course instructor said that if you’re playing a character, commit! So I am committed to being the best “IMA” ever. I’ve really enjoyed working with my friend, “Captain Gary” again. We’ve been through a lot together – from “music wars” to “exploding space ships”. I’m excited for him as he starts a new job, but I’ve missed just hanging out. My friend is just as committed to his character, Captain Gary so I never know quite what to expect. Like a ballerina, I’m always on my toes.

Or in the case of the end of day 1’s skit, not on my toes but over his shoulder! I’ve gained a few pounds (and they’ve brought friends) since we did this skit two years ago. I didn’t think he could do it. I suggested he just drag me out by one foot.

Maybe more pics later?

Speaking of commitment, my friend suggested, last minute, that I could teach the kid vid/memory verse station as Ima. So I did. Now I have to act like a zany kid along with all the other zany kids, and speak with a lisp ALL MORNING. I rarely get a chance to grab a drink or hit the restroom, and by the end of the morning, I’m out of energy, but I’m committed. I do all the actions to the songs and I shout at the top of my lungs too. It’s one week a year, and honestly, it feels good to just let loose and have fun!

Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is optional.

Unknown

Did I mention this is at a different church? I wonder what kind of first impression I’m making?

On Monday, after I had checked in, I went to the Ladies’ Room to put on my costume. I said “hello” to the other lady who was just washing up and headed into my stall. I closed the door. I hung my purse on the hook. And the lights went off. The other lady had turned out the light on her way out!

Seriously? Didn’t I just say “Hi” 10 seconds before?

There is no light in that Ladies’ Room. Not even under the crack in the door. I stood there in the darkness weighing my options. I could either a) stand there in the dark and hope that someone would turn on the light. But what if no one came? Would they never think to look for me here? Would the skit go on without me? Would they assume I had developed serious stage fright and I had fled the building? Or b) I could make my way to the door and hopefully, find the light switch.

It was cool and dark in that stall, and I was feeling very tired, but I opted for b). I carefully set down my tote bag with my costume and slid it to the side. Then I reached for the door handle of the stall. But all I could feel were straps and keys. Ridiculously, I started to feel a little panicked in the darkness. The walls of my tiny cavern started to get closer. I started to get hot, which meant I started to sweat. The mask on my face started to press against me, and I thought “get a grip woman”. Afterall, other women have been trapped in the loo and have managed to survive the experience, even laugh about it.

They’re very brave!

It took awhile but eventually I found the lock on the door and I tiptoed my way in the direction of the lightswitch. I was flooded with relief when it snapped on and I managed to finish my preparations in peace. I can’t imagine trying to put on tie-dye knee highs in the dark! Welcome to our building!

On Monday afternoon, I had to pick up groceries and get the brake light fixed on my car, and the temperature cannot be described as anything but HOT! By the time I got home, I needed a shower and a nap, not necessarily in that order! Hubby woke me up in time to cook dinner.

By Tuesday, I discovered which groups have the “characters”… There’s always one kid who “knows” that my real name isn’t Ima. There’s always two kids who spend the whole time fighting with each other. There’s the one who fidgets, and the one who can’t stop talking, and the one who rolls their eyes like a seasoned teenager. One group is filled with kids and leaders who are “too cool for school”, and one small group with more energy than a hamster on a wheel. I love them all!

Wednesday was smoother…the video took up half my time with each group, which meant I didn’t have to play “Ima Says”, for which my muscles thanked me! Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon involved various errands and appointments again. I needed a nap then too…but there’s never rest for the weary. Or is it the wicked?

Days of the Week:
Monday, Monday #2, Monday #3, Monday #4, Monday#5, Saturday, Pre-Monday

And so dear diary, each morning we are dragging a little more and now it’s to head into Monday #4!

Every day I take a water bottle (filled with iced tea because I totally need the caffeine). But at the rate it’s going, I feel like I might need something stronger by Friday. Like coffee.

From Coffee Coffee Coffee on Facebook

CFFC: Pink

Tags

, , , , , , , ,


I have tons of photos with pink. It is, after all, my favourite colour. But it’s always nice to share something new.

Last year, I missed a lot of the flowers in my garden. I went to my parents with Little Guy for March Break and came home in June! We thought it was safer to be out of the city, which it probably was, and that this Covid-thing would be under control quickly, which it was not!

It’s still not over, but the flowers don’t seem to care and this year I enjoyed them as much as possible!

It’s only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis. – Margaret Wander Bonnano

This is my post for Cee Neuner’s Fun Foto Challenge: Pink!

Happy Wednesday!

High-Five for Hydration

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,


With pools and beaches open and summer temperatures soaring, it’s easy to spend the day in the sun. But being in the water isn’t the same as drinking the water (and it’s probably not a good idea to drink the water you’re bathing in)!

Water makes up 60% of our bodies. We can survive 30-40 days without food, as long as there is sufficient water, but only 3 days without it. Water is vital for almost every function of the body, from head to toe. It helps maintain blood volume and circulation, regulates body temperature, and transports waste materials. Water also lubricates our organs, acts as a shock absorber for our joints and brain, and keeps all the motors running efficiently.

Drinking water before exercise helps reduce the fatigue and soreness you feel after a workout. It also allows your heart to function well, which lowers your heart rate so your sweat is worth it. In the long term, water can help you lose weight.

In general, people who drink more water also experience happier and more peaceful moods, better focus, and less day-time sleepiness!

Let me do this every day, and I’ll be less cranky! Promise!

Feeling thirsty? You’re already dehydrated. Developing a headache? Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of dehydration; oftentimes they can be reversed simply by drinking up! The amount of water we need per day depends on other factors, but generally, women should drink about 2.21 liters and men should drink 3 liters, daily. Other factors include things like environmental temperature, medication/medical issues, and level/duration of activity. When you sweat more, you need to drink more…even if you’re just snoozing in the shade.

Most beverages will hydrate – a big exception that does not is alcohol! Water, of course, is considered the best because naturally, it doesn’t contain dye, sugar, caffeine, or preservatives. Know your source…water can contain harmful things, but generally, it’s the best. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, add raspberries, mint, or a slice of lemon or lime (just remember to wash the outside of the fruit before you slice)!

Many fruits and vegetables naturally provide water but not enough, and fruit juices, though they hydrate, can also have added sugar and preservatives that might contribute negatively to your bikini bod! Same goes for sports drinks, pop and diet pop.

It used to be believed that caffeine, which has a diuretic effect, inhibited proper hydration, so TEA, hot or iced, was frowned on. Studes have proven that this just isn’t the case when consumed in moderation. If caffeine is a concern, try green tea, which has less caffeine, or an herbal tea/fruit infusion, which has none. Always read the labels so you don’t find out you swapped for lower caffeine, but ended up with higher sugar.

If you know you’re going to be out in the heat for awhile, grab a glass before you go! There are lots of travel options for easy transport. And tank up again when you get home. Remember to drink after the sun has gone down too. Just because the sun has gone to bed, doesn’t mean you stop perspiring!

Finally, since water is important to all life, consider sharing with your backyard neighbours. Keeping it fresh helps them and eliminates standing water for spawning mosquitoes, neighbours you don’t want!

Water is the driving force of all nature.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Happy Monday!

Dear Quarantine Diary – Week#28

Tags

, , , , ,


Dear Diary – I was jolted awake by a loud jet engine roar outside my room!

It was a cacophany of high-pitched squealing, mid-tone whining, and deep-throated rumbling. At first I thought it was some large cumbersome piece of farm equipment limping down the road. But it didnn’t limp away. I briefly fumed at mom’s neighbour, who is just the kind to guy to use loud tools early in the morning. He loves to mow his gravel early on the weekends, but it was only Friday! This horrendous noise required immediate investigation.

I went first to the front window, but there weren’t any vehicles in sight. So I stumbled to the back window, and while I could see a couple of guys in hard hats in the distance by the pipeline next door, there didn’t appear to be anything awry.

About that time, Little Guy also stumbled, bleary-eyed, from his room, wondering what a jet engine was doing in the subdivision behind us. Told ya’!

Workers by the pipeline soon started moving vehicles but without hurry, and I’ve never heard a backhoe bellow like this. Out front, 2 pickup trucks stopped by the side of the road, phones in hand, staring at something. Then a fire truck drove up, lights on but no siren. This now warranted serious exploration, so with my fuzzy blue robe belt cinched tight and my tea mug in hand, I wandered, barefoot, across the damp, spongy front yard. Five steps in and I could see the source.

Yes, white flames dancing high in the air. Was it a gas leak? A controlled vent? A marshmallow roast? There was no way to tell, but just in case we were told to evacuate, I got dressed!

What a way to start the weekend!

Dear Diary – I finally ventured into a department store to purchase Little Guy some new pants. ALL of his pants are high-water. This kid just won’t quit growing! The problem with a replacement isn’t in finding length in the pants, but width. His waist is smaller than mine (jealous) so he needs a men’s size in leg, but not so much in the middle. Pants are a problem for me too, but for different reasons. The legs are always too long and the middle is a whole ‘nother story!

Auntie M did a closet purge too and brought over a box of clothes last night and I went “shopping”. I’ve expanded my winter wardrobe a tad. I added 2 more cardigans.

Dear Diary – One more to go. My faithful father drove Little Guy and I to get Little Guy’s second shot. We celebrated with dark honey & almond chocolate from a local business. That means Hubby, Little Guy and I have all had 2 covid vaccinations shots, and Big Guy (finally!) has had his first! I’m looking forward to a grand reunion! It’s been too long!

Dear Diary – My fuzzy blue robe stepped out the front door again this week.

The telephone woke me from a lovely dream Tuesday morning. It rang and rang, and finally stopped. Blinking erratically, I checked my watch. It was only 7:30. When it started ringing again, I wondered why no one was answering? It could be the pool heater guy; he did say he’d call on his way over. So I rolled out and started out my door. The sight of Little Guy already up was a shock, and I quickly ducked back inside my room. I was only wearing a t-shirt and I could have scarred him for life. I grabbed my fuzzy blue robe and charged toward my folks’ door, noticing a white van parked alongside the road. A white van with blue lettering. The heater guy. I yelled for Dad to get dressed, and waved to the driver from the front porch. In my blue fuzzy robe. The slightly embarrassed heater guy waved back.

The pool heater is fixed, and I enjoyed my first swim of the year!

Dear Diary – Mother Nature put on quite a display Tuesday night. In addition to house-rattling thunder, we had sideways rain and a spectacular light show. It’s one of the (many) things I miss because I live in the city. Out here in the country, I can watch the light show and see the forked lightning split the night sky. On clear nights, I can see the stars and milky way. And every evening, God paints a different sky. I will never ceased to be amazed.

Dear Diary – It’s hard to believe that my mini “holiday” is nearly over. Most of our days have been spent just enjoying being together. We picked up ice cream one hot afternoon. We drank endless pots of tea. We’ve played some board games, read in the sunshine, and did absolutely nothing, because we could. One evening, we laughed at the birds and roasted marshmallows on the fire table. Probably not the healthiest choice, but still – Oh. So. Good!

I needed this rest. For my body and mind, but mostly for my soul. Did I mention my body? Next week I’m up early every day for a kid-style adventure – Vacation Bible Camp – and I’m not sure I’ll survive…

Wilderness Wednesday: Evening Song

Tags

, , , , , ,


Evening at the river. As the sun slowly sinks toward the horizon, it’s warm glows barely kisses the tops of the trees. The birds begin to settle, only a few singing nursery rhymes to their little ones tucked safely in their nests.

Below the bridge, hidden in the foliage, a bullfrog trumpets twice, and then falls silent.

Overhead, a few wispy clouds continue their journey east. The river continues it’s journey too, winding first south, then west, and winding again. It will thunder over the waterfall downstream, before winding its way toward a larger body of water far past the town. Like time, the river never ceases to slip away.

But here, though I know it is moving, it appears still. The surface is like glass, capturing a perfect moment with cloud and tree. As the surface darkens with the setting sun, the smaller plants floating on the surface begin to look more like stars, and the clouds, distant galaxies. I feel very small in a great big world.

I turn and head for home. It will soon be time to sing my own evening song, before I slip away.

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break

Rich Mullins/Beaker, Sometimes By Step

Dear Quarantine Diary – Week#27

Tags

, , , ,


Dear Diary – School’s out for the summer and holidays have officially begun, so why does every day still feel the same?

Even though many restrictions are still in place, I ran away from home! I love summer, not so much the heat and humidity, but the sense of freedom it brings. No deadlines (or emails from teachers when they get missed). No jeans pinching my waist (sundresses, baby)! Fewer commitments hanging over my head. Just tousled hair and sun-kissed cheeks, rainbows after a storm, and flowers, birds and butterflies displaying their colours.

And a fresh basil from the garden.

But here’s a sobering thought, we’re half-way through the year, and what do I have to show for it…

Dear Diary – After the tears, the yelling, the near “mental breakdown” trying to book an appointment for my second vaccination, and my friend’s lucky break, I finally got shot…on Canada Day! I had packed my suitcase ahead so that as soon as I no longer “crummy”, I could hop in the car and “run away from home”.

Hubby drove me to the community center and waited while I did the deed. The line up was remarkably small. My nurse’s name was Jennifer. She was born in the same month and year as me. I took this as a good omen. Everything went swimmingly, and I was soon seated in the centre of the soccer club, counting down my 15 minutes, to freedom!

The pins and needles started almost immediately, and continued to ping me for the next two hours. By the time, they disappeared, the fatigue was rolling in. We went to bed early. I spent the next day snoozing and sweating on the couch, nauseous, with a dull headache and achy bones. I continued to boil through the night, waking the next day twisted in my sheets and feeling limp. My physio torturer therapist took pity on me and we did gentle exercises, lying down. My chiropractor kindly snapped a misguided rib back into place; too bad it won’t stay there! Overall, I would say I have survived. It’s Hubby’s turn next, then Little Guy. The only one left to start the process is Big Guy (hint, hint)!

Dear Diary – I packed my bathing suit and sundresses for a summer vacation…but where did the sunshine go? For 3 days, I’ve hunkered down inside in a sweatshirt and wool socks…and a sundress! I would have braved the pool except the pool heater broke on the weekend, and the temperature has dropped radically. I suspect there are icebergs floating under the cover. It probably would have felt great when I had my vaccine fever!

I am not amused!

Dear Diary – I found a new way to torment my long suffering Mom, besides hiding her stuffed lamb in odd places, and naming the eggs. The other evening, Little Guy and I played Carcassone with her. Carcassone is a tile-based game and points are earned by laying tiles to build roads and cities. After accidentally knocking some tiles akilter and watching Mom adjusting them, we started to tilt tiles here and there to see if she’d notice. She’d notice and scold, we’d laugh…and do it again. What can I say? I’m a brat! We laughed so hard, we almost had tears running down our faces.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

Job 8:21

Dear Diary – This morning, I made the mistake of perching my glasses on my head. My hair immediately snarled in the nose pieces. The more I tried to pry them off, the worse it became. By the time I left my room, my glasses were firmly affixed to my head. It took 2 parents to set me free. That was almost as embarrassing as the time I got stuck in my bra.

Dear Diary – After a chilly evening walk, I settled down with a hot cup of tea and a book. As I went to drain the last of my tea, I discovered I had added protein in my cup. An ant had drowned.

At least he wasn’t a spider!

Maybe he was just trying to get warm too.

Dear Diary – I went shopping inside a store, and left delighted with my newly purchased package of knickers. Now when I’m told to put my big panties on, I can! The province may have deemed some items as non-essential, but after a year and a half, they were becoming pretty essential. Little Guy now owns 1 pair of pants that aren’t highwater, and socks that are larger than a hummingbird. It’s often the little things that bring great delight!

Dear Diary – Someone in Belgium used my photo in her blog post and business instagram. Pretty cool!

Dear Diary – Little Guy would like to wait as long as possible for his next vaccation. So after surfing the net and making some calls, I booked for his second vaccination next week. Not because he’s anxious (that would be mean…kinda funny but mean), but because it’s important. I haven’t woken him up yet to tell him the good news!

It’s going to be a looooong week!

Dear Diary – Hubby made a startling discovery this week. He has mice IN his car! Not just under the hood. In. The.Car. He found poop in the console. Personally, I think we should just sell the car!

A mouse can be just as dangerous as a bullet or a bomb.

Lamar S. Smith