October 23, 2009


Let's hope. The Crabs are taking over!

I-64 West, the main interstate through Hampton Roads, just closed because a truck overturned and spilled live crabs across the interstate.

Think I'm joking? See below.

October 21, 2009

That's My Dad, The COACH.

I had a t-shirt that said just that when I was about 4 years old. I remember it so distinctly, it had a little cheerleader, with a rainbow behind the big black bold lettering. I saved it and wore it for many years after I should have, but when it finally became a belly shirt Lisa decided it was time for it to hit the trash can. But when I went home this summer she pulled out the t-shirts she's going to have a big quilt made out of ... and I had it saved. I tell you I loved that shirt.

My dad is a high school football coach, and is in his 40th year (I believe) as the head coach at Hampton High School in Virginia. Before that he was an assistant coach for the same team for over 5 years. Yes indeed, he is old enough to have coached for that long. When some of you, and even some of your parents, were mere ideas. BUT, 16 years after he had been a head coach I was born on November 26th. Last night he told me he would never forget that day "in his whole entire life" (which if he hasn't forgotten this after his 68 year life, we're on a good roll, even though it's only been 23 years since I arrived... *I have no idea what that sentence means. But you get the idea). This was the conversation we had:

Me: "Who's coming home for Thanksgiving? Who's going to be eating with us?"
Dad: "Well, it looks like it will be me, you, your mother, Piper, and Star."
Me: "Well what are we doing this Thanksgiving other than being grateful?"
Dad: "have good company with Leigh-Taylor"
Me: "No"
Dad: "eat good"
Me "No"
Dad: "I don't what else is going on?"
Dad: "OH, Your birthday! ... I'll never forget that day" (wait for it) ...

"You looked like a little something that had been dipped down in a tub of lard."


After they bathed me and took me home for a little over 24 hours I attended my first Hampton High School football game. At four days old. We won the state championship 2 weeks later. My dad has garnered about 13 of those in his years at Hampton High School. And, he is also the winningest coach in Virginia High School Football History. And he is in the Top 5 winningest coaches in the US. But, you know what? While all of that stuff is pretty cool, I believe the coolest thing is the number of lives he has changed.

When I was getting ready for Miss America I tried to think back on why exactly I am the way I am. Why I feel compelled to help people I see suffering. Why I want to change our society so that our kids have a better future. And while my mom was an obvious influence on me by taking me to Meals on Wheels trips when I was a wee thing, and encouraging me to give back to the community in more overt ways I watched my dad from afar and looking back I realize he had a huge impact on my vision of our world. You see, my dad never drew the line at just being a coach. He has been a mentor, and often a father figure to those students that are playing for him. When you're working in a school similar to his you have the ability to keep kids off the street through sports. Talk about changing a life trajectory.

I so distinctly remember hanging around with my family on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it was definitely late December/early January ... the time of year that is AMAZING. Because you don't have school or work, but you also don't really want to go out and it's perfect because ... there are so many amazing college bowl games on. SO MANY. ALLL DAY. EVERY DAY. We were all sitting around when we heard our cabinets opening and closing, and at first we were so confused. Finally my dad walked into the kitchen to see what in the heck was going on and 4 of his football players had walked into our home, into our kitchen, and started making themselves plates from Christmas leftovers and cookies. They were and are a part of our family.

He's bought them contact lenses to see the black boards in class and they've joined us at our Thanksgiving table, and really, the list could last for pages. Football has been my dad's life and it's been an amazing thing to be a part of. I learned what it took to get a 1st down, pass interference, holding, delay of game, off-sides, that 11 men should be on the field, and what a 4 3 4 defense is pretty early on in my life. I also played field hockey in high school so I could garner the attention of my father with broken hands, bloody noses, and busted lips.

Either way, the Phoebus - Hampton game has been a big one for the last, eh, 12 years or so. Like there are thousands and thousands of people that go and some don't get in big (even with the extra bleachers they install just for the game). I haven't been home for a game since my third year of college. So I'm going down to see my pops bust a move on Phoebus and I absolutely cannot wait. It's going to be just like old times ... no dinner before games because my mom gets too nervous (she can't eat until well after or her tummy gets a littttle rumbly), so Paul and I will eat a hot dog and scream and scream and scream until the clock hits 0:00. And that's when I'll give my dad a big, proud hug.

(About the screaming part; my mom sits in the top of the stands so she can't hear what people in the stands say about my dad ... whenever something bad happens he's always the bad guy and good, he is the good guy... Lisa can't handle hearing bad things about her man so she sits above it ... Either way, she is always one row beneath the camera that records the film my dad watches every Sunday. She is so obnoxiously loud, my father has not been able to listen to the ball games with sound for 26 years. Twenty - six years.)

When I was a little girl I used to complain about going to the store with my dad because people would always stop him and say "COACH ..." and only goodness knew what they would say, but it always seemed to take us longer to get stuff done. Looking back I realize that's because my dad and I both have no sense of time, and I also remember giggling every time someone would walk away because this would be the exchange: "dad, who was that?" "darlin', I have no idea." ... What I'm trying to say is I was always Coach Smith's daughter. And for so long I wanted to break free from that and make my own name. But you know what? I am so proud and even moreso humbled to say:

"That's My Dad, The COACH!"


October 20, 2009

Music to the Ears

... literally.

Please listen to Warm Whispers by Missy Higgins if you want your souls to be soothed.

You can thank me later.

October 19, 2009

Peace, Love, and Equality. Or, Something Like That.

My mom came to visit me last Sunday for slightly over 24 hours. She rode up with her bff Linda and stopped by to say "hey!"

Before she came I asked if she would get me a couple packs of Red Bull since they're pretty over-priced here in the city (along with, basically, everything else). As the car pulled up, the trunk popped open, and the bags started falling out I immediately assumed they were all stuffed with my Fall/Winter sweaters and coats. But nay Nancy. Nay. Rather, one of the large bags had 3 12 packs of Red Bull. Yes, 36 Red Bulls. And, wanna know the scary part? Saturday I started to make a dent in the second pack. Scarier part? I drink coffee everyday, too.

Why is that a part of my blog you ask? Because I'm only writing this since I'm still wired from my midterm (coupled with a Red Bull) I had a couple of hours ago. So, I figured this was the perfect time to at least share some things I've been up to since I last checked in ...

As a first year at UVa I was lucky enough to have a 12 person discussion course with Julian Bond in his last year as a professor at the University. Julian Bond helped forge the trail for the Civil Rights Movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Two Saturdays ago, the evening before the National Equality March on Sunday October 11th, Julian Bond stepped forward and declared that this march was quite similar to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

And how true! Remembering what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw in the potential of our country then, we must also reflect on it now as a complete and utter parallel to our fight for the LGBT community so that they may also experience the same rights as you and me (or me and the person sitting next to me right now if you happen to be gay. this one's for you ;) ):

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and realize the true meaning of it's creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all mean are created equal.'"

"I have a dream that one day my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

** I look forward to the day where my (two) children will not judge others for who they love, rather, they will look for content of character.

"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

In 1958 an African American woman and Caucasian man were married in DC (because in their home state of Virginia, they couldn't be married because of the Racial Integrity Act). Police officers broke into their home in hopes to catch them having sex, which was also a crime, (the sexual relations) instead Mr. Loving pointed to their Marriage Certificate hanging on the wall. Coming to the realization they were married in another state they were arrested immediately and imprisoned for a year.

YOU GUYS, this was only 50 years ago! Anti - miscegenation laws not yet set into motion. How disgusted does this make you? I only hope we look back and feel the same about our treatment of homosexuals in 50 years.

Hold on ...

Climbing off my soap-box ...

On the heels of the Equality March I attended PFLAG's benefit dinner/auction. If you don't know much about PFLAG you should check out their organization here. They're awesome ... but the long and short of it is they represent the "parents and friends of lesbians and gays" but, really, they are friends (and parents) of the entire LGBT community. Claire helped put this gala together, and I have to say it was absolutely remarkable.

It just so happened that the event was held on the 11th year, to the day, since Matthew Shepard's murder. He was the 21 year old male who was taken from a bar, beaten until unrecognizable, and strung up and left to die on a fence post. Because he was gay. Because he was gay! Do you know what they said when they found him? Most people have heard that he was almost not found because he resembled a scarecrow. But when he was indeed found 18 hours later, they said that the only place on his face and body that was not covered in blood was the skin where his tear had fallen. Can you imagine? And this is all because of his sexuality.

I appreciated the momentum created by the PFLAG event; the money raised at the dinner will send representatives into schools to help counselors better understand how to work with those that are homosexuals, as well as speaking with the students to break the stigma of those that are gay. Really cool work going on here and around the country.

And there are people in my life, across the board, that may not agree with my opinions. They respect them, and understand my rationale. That is the environment conducive towards change ... one of respect.

October 9, 2009


In a previous post I alluded to the fact that I allow myself to be consumed by my workload. And, I've got to tell you the amount of work assigned at Parsons is unreal. When they told us during our orientation that we would get a minimal amount of sleep (ie: 4 hours) most nights, if any at all, they really weren't joking. Top that with my OCD tendencies, I keep my face in my books all day.

Integrating myself back into the college community as well as adjusting my mindset has been a slight hurdle. Yet my pitfall has been how I respond to the overwhelming pressures I receive both from the external as well as internally.

When I put my mind to something I put blinders on and I'm determined to achieve the goal. What I've realized is not only do I sacrifice a bit of my sanity, I sometimes lose my consideration of those surrounding me. Totally unacceptable.

I read the following passage this morning and I thought it should be shared; Ephesians 1: 1-2. "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

Essentially I like to be completely in control, I strongly dislike surprises, I really like structured schedules, etc. I am so focused on the destination that I forget to enjoy the journey. With that I become slightly impatient and brash. And, along the way, I begin to forget my purpose and God's purpose for me. While I will probably never really enjoy surprises, or completely un-tailored schedules, I want to continually strive to embrace the journey God has had planned for me for ages. And I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

October 7, 2009


This past weekend I hopped on a bus and headed down to our great nation's capitol to show AIDS what I really thought about it and it's incredibly idiotic mission.

My dear friend Elizabeth Lyle, a real gem, picked me up from the bus stop on Friday evening and we joined Chip and Scottie for some delicious dinner and an inordinate amount of insatiably delish chitter chatter. I had just posted my last blog so of course they wanted to know about that, and my mom, and Paul, and and and.... you get the point. We then ran over to Georgetown (metaphorically, clearly) to see the Hullabahoos. We missed their performance but went to their mixer. BAHAHA. Liz's little brother, who is not so little might I add, Guy is a Hullabahoo. We met some of their new guys and at some point in the evening the following occurred:

Guy: Charlie (aka: Charles-Robert) this is Liz, and Leigh-Taylor. They were Belles.
Charlie: What? Were?
Joe: They graduated in 2007.
Charlie: 2007?
[Leigh-Taylor and Liz giggle, and wince synonymously]
Guy: Yes.
Charlie: Wow. I'm talking to the old girls.


The next morning was an early one ... but anything to kick AIDS in the face. With the support of some Starbucks we were ready to walk. Shawn Decker, whom I've mentioned on a previous post, is on Team Supersnack with me and this year he received the Courage Award at the walk. He also dressed up in a most iconic way. We walked with Kristi Glakas, Kate Marie, Steve (Paul's brother. Paul slept through the entire event ... in NYC), Pisty, and Caressa Cameron.

That's Team Supersnack. That's "Shawn the Courageous" in the lemon suit. If you can't read it, it says "Life Gave me AIDS." the back says "So, I made LemonAIDS".
Love it.

The walking crew, with Steve behind the camera.

I'm so happy I have unapathetic friends. People who care about those that have been marginalized by such a stupid, stupid disease. Wanna help me kick AIDS in the face again this May? I'm definitely walking it here in NY and I'd love if you wanted too as well.

Umm, PS, I forgot to mention .... We raised, err, over $36,000. BOOOOO-YA, AIDS.

October 1, 2009

Starting the Month off Right

As a lot of y'all know, I was on the board for the Miss New York Organization so, specifically, I could help with preparation for the new Miss New York. But per usual within the pageant world people start to point fingers and accuse state organizations of "fixing" the pageant so their "chosen girl" (these words in quotations are some of my favorites on the message boards) wins. It really is quite an odd concept and I'm fairly sure it happens in some states across the country but I have to say ... not here in New York.

The board issued a "Code of Conduct" to battle these accusations and prove to the local boards that this behavior is not tolerated within this state organization. The only problem is, as a board member I wouldn't be allowed to fraternize with any of the gals I competed with. Or, that competed this year. Breakdown: choose between being on the board or maintaining friendships with, in reality, any potential competitor (ie: a girl in the city/state between the ages of 17 - 24).

When I was confronted with the option to remain on the board or to retain these friendships the choice seemed very clear to me. I will of course maintain the untouchable relationships on this board and offer myself in any capacity that they would all want/need. But, I believe in the value of these friendships I have developed - and those that will continue to grow. Today I had lunch with Miss Vermont, Ashley Wheeler and her new fiance Michael. Later today I received this text without having mentioned this situation: "I have learned a lot about friendship in the last year and just want you to know that I value your friendship like we have been friends for life. I think you're an amazing woman and I love you. PS: this is not a mass text." The beginning part was for serious ... the end was a twiddle of an inside joke.

So here it goes:

Dear message boards,

Rip me all you want. I couldn't really say this when I was Miss New York because my mom would have hunted me down (but now she has her pom-poms out). You can continue to call me ugly, overweight, dumb, whatever you'd like ...

But, if you have any self-respect and respect for others please do not question my integrity and that of my best friends. I'll spell it out for you a little bit better ... Claire Buffie didn't manipulate me into a friendship. I've gotten pretty good at being able to tell who is doing that. And her mom doesn't send me a monthly check (though, JoJo, I wouldn't send it back ... jk jk). And no, I didn't help her get ready for Miss NY interview. She did that on her own. But what she does give me is a daily rejuvenation. She can sit and just talk with me. About anything. We can also just sit and not say anything and still feel comfortable. She loves me for who I am, quirks and all. She is selfless beyond recognition. Claire Buffie will be standing at the front of the church when I get married.

Beyond the veil of pageantry I find real life to be ever so becoming.

With Much Respect,

Leigh-Taylor Smith