Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Slightly, Sort Of, Semi Discouraged

As my faithful and dearly appreciated long time readers know, I have COPD. (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.) This is a condition that almost always affects either former or current smokers.

Since I've never smoked or lived around smokers, my pulmonolgist calls me "an anomaly in the COPD world." (What an honor, right?) My lungs are currently functioning at about 60% of what is normal for a woman my age and I have been told that I am a possible candidate for a double lung transplant down the road.

Having COPD (and--for me at least--its accompanying vocal problems) has qualified me to have some really fun medical tests done, like the one where they stuck a camera up my nose and down my throat to take pictures of my vocal chords. O happy day.


The only reason I'm smiling in this picture is because it is merely a posed shot with the camera going in just a little bit. When they actually put it all the way in, I was not smiling. Trust me on that.



A couple months ago, our insurance changed and when it did, my monthly inhaler bill went from $50 a month to $180 a month.

And I thought to my little ol' self, "Well, I'm feeling okay and I'm not really all that convinced that the inhaler made that much of a difference and it's terribly expensive. So I think I'm just going to get off it for a while and see how I do."

On the positive side of things, getting off the inhaler made my voice really strong. I could sing without vocal strain and fatigue and I cannot tell you how much I loved that feeling. It was a dose of happiness to my song-singin' soul.

However. After about a month, my lungs started not being so happy. I would try to get through a rehearsal at church, and end up having to breathe about every four words. NOT a good thing.

Steve didn't know I had gone off the inhaler but when he realized the kinds of problems I was having and realized what I had done, he marched himself over to our new pharmacy and filled the prescription himself. And he also gave me a loving husbandly lecture about consisent inhaler useage in the process.

Sigh.

So I'm back on the expensive inhaler. And yes, my lungs are operating a bit better--relatively speaking.

However, for the past few days, I've been dealing with on again, off again hoarseness and vocal issues and it just makes me crazy.

'Cause you know what? I'm sort of fond of talking. And singing.

But I'm also sort of extra fond of breathing, too. It really frustrates me that I have to choose between the two. And that is why I am slightly, sort of, semi discouraged right now.

I know that writing about this will not solve anything and it won't make my problems go away. But knowing that I have people reading this who care and are concerned makes me feel a bit better. And also, knowing that there are people out there whose health problems are a bazillion times worse than mine makes me thankful for the fairly good health that I DO enjoy.

So that's all I really have to say on the subject for the moment. I knew I hadn't mentioned my lung issues in a while and I just wanted to let you know what was going on.

In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate every single breath I take.

______________________

In other news, Meagan, Steve and Nathan arrived safe and sound last night, splattered with paint and fatigue. Despite their tiredness (after working two full days on the house) we still had a fun night together, full of many giggles and guffaws.

And with this delightful twosome around, there will be many more giggles to come.





A Wee Little Update on Meagan's Visit

I know that I posted on Monday that Meagan would be arriving yesterday for a visit. However, as it turns out, Nathan and Steve went to Smithfield yesterday to do some painting at our old house, as well as to pick up Meagan. (She had caught a ride from Florida to the Smithfield area from her sister and brother-in-law who were enroute to to NY.)

She had already agreed to help Steve and Nathan with some painting before they all headed back here to Manteo last night, but alas, the painting job just grew and grew and grew. They ended up staying overnight in Smithfield and are still there today, still working. They plan on being home in time for dinner tonight.

Here they are painting our living room in August.




Since they're painting the home office and Sarah's bedroom now, and Meagan also helped paint our kitchen several years ago, she has definitely got a lot of Smith Painting Experience.



In the meantime, Sarah, Snowy and I have been holding the fort. And I've been doing even more unpacking and organizing. Does it ever end? Ever?

Unhappily, when Steve, Nathan and Meagan arrive home tonight, the back of the van will be filled with yet more stuff that we didn't have room for during the big move. So tomorrow I guess I shall unpack and organize stuff some more.

I'll no doubt need some extra chocolate to keep my strength up.

The (Mild) (Wild) Roller Coaster Ride

(Note: I posted this piece a couple years ago on Sarah's site after we had spent a day at the Busch Gardens Amusement park.)


We had a lovely day at Busch Gardens although it started off with a bit of a fizzle. (Instead of a sizzle.) We had parked the car and were blithely (and rather smugly, I might add) bypassing the very congested area where people were forming long lines to buy tickets. We sashayed right on through the crowd and sailed right up to the entrance where I opened my little bag with a flourish and prepared to distribute our four complimentary tickets.

And then it hit me. “Oh no. I only see THREE tickets! I must have left the fourth one at home!”

Now any of you husbands reading this missive are probably already thinking to yourself, “How would I handle a situation where my intelligent wife—who I’m quite sure knows how to count--shows up with only three tickets for four people? How would I handle a situation where purchasing a ticket to replace the one that she forgot would cost a chunk of change?”

I’ll pause here for a moment and let you fill in your own blanks. Done? Okay, now I’ll tell you what my husband did.

He was quiet for about ten seconds and I knew that a few “interesting” thoughts were probably percolating in his head. But all he said was, “Well, let me go back and buy another ticket. You all go ahead into the park and have fun and I’ll meet you in about an hour.” And he didn’t mention it again all day.

Now don’t you think he needs the Husband of the Year Award? I felt bad enough as it was and he was so wonderful not to make me feel any worse. After that inauspicious start, we had a wonderfully relaxing day.

Well, I should say it was relaxing until Nathan talked me into going on a roller coaster with him. (Side note: when we were driving up to the park, Sarah looked at this huge roller coaster and said, “I would never go on that coaster.” Nathan said, “Why? Are you scared?” She retorted, “No, the colors clash." While Nathan rolled his eyes I smiled proudly at my female offspring. It was such a great “girl thing” to say.)

Anyway, I had already chickened out of going on a roller coaster earlier that day. That unfortunate incident involved me standing in line with Nathan for about thirty minutes and then, right as it came time to board, losing my nerve and making my way (going in the wrong direction) through a line of about 300 people.

It was pretty embarrassing saying, “Pardon me, ‘scuse me” that many times and announcing to everyone by my exodus that, yes indeedy, I was a ‘fraidy cat!

So after that egregious egressing experience, I was extra determined that I was NOT going to back out of the next roller coaster riding opportunity. I patiently stood in line with Nathan as we awaited our turn on the instrument of torture.

At long last, we got strapped in and took off. And when I say took off, I mean, TOOOOOK OFFFF!


After a brain-tingling, spine-snapping minute or two of frenetic action, the ride slowed down and I immediately started to pat my middle-aged self on the back saying, “Hey, Becky. You did it! You rode a scary coaster! You ROCK, girl!”

But then all of a sudden, the dreadful thought occurred to me: The ride was not done. Indeed, the ride of terror had just begun.


WHOOOOSH! we flew off down the track.

WHAM! we turned sideways, back and forth, a hundred times.

WHEEEE! we plummeted straight down toward some water.

WHOOAAAAA! we ripped around several corners.

It was bad, but I was hanging on--screaming, yelling, hyperventilating, but all in all, still in pretty good shape. But then, to my everlasting horror, the ride REALLY took off.

For real.

Real fast.

And I lost it.

I closed my eyes as tight as they would go, grabbed on to my little shoulder harness (which I was convinced was going to let go of me at any second) opened my mouth and just WAILED. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I actually CRIED on a roller coaster.

Nathan told me later that he looked over at me and was filled with a terrible horror that he was responsible for taking his mother on a ride that was making her cry! But what was he supposed to do?

Call Steve on the cell phone? Ask for the ride to be stopped? Offer me a Kleenex?

I think not.

A few seconds (or years) later, the cars finally careened into the station and there I sat in front of the whole waiting crowd--tears dribbling down my cheeks, nose running, and terror oozing out of every pore. I didn’t have the wits or the wherewithal to look around me but I wouldn’t be surprised if one glance at me sent all the middle-aged moms running and screaming in the opposite direction. I know for a fact that I wasn’t very good for business.

The next day I was telling a friend about the experience and she had the temerity to say, "Oh, my 8-year old daughter just loves that ride."

WHAT?

I told another friend about it and she said, “Oh, I’ve been on that ride. It’s one of the more mild ones at Busch Gardens.”

One of the MILD ones!!! I couldn’t believe it! I cried on a MILD roller coaster? I sniffled on an easy peasy ride that 8-year olds adore? I shed all those traumatized tears over stinkin' NOTHING?

Here I had thought I was on the worst roller coaster that the Engineers of Horror had ever come up with and I was just sure that my stricken tears were more than justified. And then I found out it was mild. Mild, I tell you!

I am so embarrassed.

Moment of silence please, while I just get over it.

Okay, I’m done.

Thank you for your support.


______________________


One additional roller coaster story: A couple years before the above story took place, our family was at Islands of Adventure in Florida. I thought I would create a bonding moment with Nathan and go on the Hulk roller coaster with him. To show you that I had completely lost my mind, here is a brief description of the ride taken from a Web review:

"This ride has quickly gained all sorts of media attention
and has made its name in the list of the world’s best roller coasters. The best part of the ride is that at the beginning, it accelerates from 0-40 in less than two seconds.


Then you head into an inverted zero gravity roll and go down a 105-foot drop and through a cobra roll that, in 1999, was the world’s largest. Riders complete a vertical loop, then enter a tunnel full of mist. By this time, the speed of the train has reached its highest speed --aproximately 65 mph. Also, during the ride, the train pulls 4 G's."




During that horrific, horrible, horrendous ride, I screamed until I thought I would pass out. I saw my life flash before my eyes. I knew I would never again see the faces of my husband or daughter. It was over. My Life. Was. Over.


When I had miraculously survived till the end of the ride and we were pulling back into the station, Nathan (who was only fourteen at the time) looked over at me and inquired worriedly, "Mom, are you emotionally damaged?"

I forgot all about the terror and just laughed and laughed at my funny son. And then, when I was done laughing, I made a solemn promise that I would never, ever, ever get on that roller again.

And I haven't. And I won't.

The end.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Biggest Fans

Late last year, Steve said he felt like our family needed to make a trip to Wisconsin for Christmas. Although I had been with my parents and five siblings (who all live in Wisconsin and Minnesota) many times since I got married, it had been almost thirty years since I had been able to be with them at Christmas.

So we decided that it was time to go.


And as it turned out, it was more than time to go--it was also timely for us to go. Because Christmas 2008 was the last Christmas my dad would be us.

So we packed our bags and made the 2,500 hundred mile, round trip journey, creating a lot happy, snowy memories in the process.







Here I am at my parent's house, playing a game with my oldest brother Tim, and youngest sister, Debbie, and their families.




One evening during our visit, we went with Mom and Dad to one of their many nursing home concerts.




I did a couple songs with them, which was really special for me since they are the ones who gave me my love (and talent) for music. They encouraged me every step of the way as I became a guitar player, a piano player, a songwriter, and a singer. It is no exaggeration to say that they have always been my biggest fans.




And just to demonstrate that music is a great gift to pass down through the generations, Steve and I performed a song with Nathan.


At the end of the visit when we said our good byes, none of us knew that we wouldn't see Dad again.



But as much as I miss him, I know that Dad is healed, whole, and happy and that he's staying busy in heaven, telling all of his dramatic stories.


I also know that whether on earth or in heaven, he and mom will never stop being my biggest fans.


And I am blessed.

________________________

From the Comments Section

There were a couple questions/comments about how old I was when I got married.

Steve was twenty-four and I was just nineteen. In fact, when I got married, I was younger than Nathan is right now. Yikes!

___________________

Kathy asked if I had any family in Mount Holly, NC.

Kathy, Steve's parent's live in the Coulwood neighborhood, and his two brothers are both within fifteen minutes of Paw Creek church. None of them live specifically in Mount Holly, though.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Paw Creek Wedding

Twenty-eight years ago this Saturday, Steve and I were married at Paw Creek Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, the church that Steve's family has attended for many years.





And in a nicely-timed turn of events, Paw Creek Presbyterian just happened to be where our family attended service yesterday.




We thought it would be nice to take a picture with the kids too, since they both sort of got their start at that church. (Um. Figuratively of course. Not literally.)




And to make the morning all the more meaningful, this fella also happened to be in town (and at church) at the same time we were. Kris was the soloist for our wedding.


Kris' family has lived next door to Steve's parents for over thirty-five years and have also attended the same church throughout those years. Kris and his charming wife live in Singapore so we don't get to see him very often.

And I thought I'd also include this picture of my hubby, although I'm not entirely sure what he's doing.



It was not only a special Sunday but also a memorable Christmas visit, made all the more lovely by this sight as we pulled away from Steve's parent's house yesterday to head home.



And just one more picture . . .

This is Nathan and his girlfriend Meagan at her college graduation two weeks ago. The reason I'm posting a picture of Meagan sort of "out of the blue" is that tomorrow, she will be coming to Manteo and staying until Sunday. Hooray!

From the Comments Section

Q. Have you read any books by Richard Paul Evans? --Krista

A. Unfortunately, I haven't but I'm always on the lookout for new authors. Thanks for the recommendation!

Q. Just curious....does Steve's church not have a Christmas day service? I think it's great that he and your family were able to travel for the holidays!!!! We're Catholic so Christmas eve and Christmas day are very important holidays. We celebrate with our pastor. I am not familiar with the Christian traditions. Merry Christmas!!!"

A. At our church, we had a candlelight communion service on Wednesday night and then yesterday (Sunday) our regular regular morning service was held, which our church's youth pastor preached at since Steve was out of town.

But no, we really don't have any tradition of having services right on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It sounds like a lovely thing to do, though!

Q. What did you get for Christmas? --Anonymous

A. I got a lovely pocketbook!

And thanks to all of you who shared some of your favorite Christmas gifts; it was so much fun to read about them all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Old Movies. New Memories.





That was the cartoon that Steve's mom showed Nathan when he rolled out of bed (or actually rolled off the couch) yesterday morning at about 11 am. He thought it was pretty funny.

A few more scenes from Christmas Day . . .


Sarah setting the table with Grandpa Smith





Snowy set up camp right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen so as not to miss any little pieces of turkey or ham that were dropped.


When we went down to the rec room in the basement after Christmas lunch to open gifts, Snowy got the happy opportunity to lick out the bottoms of two cups of eggnog. (This is Steve's younger brother, Dana.)



Steve with his brother Jeff and their dad.


Steve asked for (and received) a tool belt. Here he is displaying just how very big the tool belt is.


Sarah figured she'd try it, too.


Since Ken is a retired Air Force fighter pilot, he got a big kick out of receiving an airplane made from recycled Coke cans.


After Christmas Dinner, gift opening and (most importantly--naps!) we took a trip down memory lane when Steve's dad broke out the ancient film projector and showed us movies of when Steve was young. The film footage moved from Norway to Denmark to England to New Mexico to Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Nathan and Sarah were quite fascinated to see their Dad (and their grandparents) in their younger years.





Snowy and I--full of good food and contentment.


____________________________


From the Comment section:

Georganna asked what we all got for Christmas.

Nathan's main gift was a set of ski poles from his grandparents, Sarah got a couple video games she was really wanting, as well as a few things from Aeropostale. I gave Steve the complete set of Sherlock Holmes episodes on DVD (he LOVES Sherlock Holmes) and he gave me a Miche purse and a couple shells. (You change the outside color/design of the purse by attaching different "shells.")

Would anyone like to share your favorite Christmas gift in the comments section? We'd love to hear about it!

Redeemed1 asked if that is our old furniture in the new house.

Yes it is! The only thing we had to buy new were the drapes for the living room. It took some creativity to make everything fit with the pillars in the room, but we are quite happy with the way it turned out.

Not having to buy new furniture is a wonderful thing, indeed!


Friday, December 25, 2009

A Mistletoe Season Missive of a Money Monkey Missile from Manteo

Since I figured that everyone else would be blogging about Christmas and mistletoe-related topics today, I thought I’d better follow suit and somehow incorporate mistletoe into my writing as well. Hence, the word “mistletoe” in the title of the blog. Which has nothing to do with blog itself. (Just thought I’d make that nice and clear.)

So here’s the non-mistletoe related story . . .

A few weeks ago, Steve and Sarah were rummaging around in the Manteo Ace Hardware store when they came upon a little stuffed monkey toy being “demonstrated.” (A “live video” demonstration by Nathan can be found further down the page.)

Steve and Sarah were immediately hooked on the plucky little fella and thought that the Money Monkey would make a great Christmas present for The College Dude.

Well, actually, just to make myself clear--when they bought the Money Monkey it was not yet technically, a Money Monkey. It was technically a Money-less Monkey.

However. When I was wrapping Sir Money-less Monkey, it suddenly occurred to me that we had spent fifteen dollars less on Nathan than our Initial Parental Budgetary Plan had allowed for. And so I decided to turn the Plain Ol’ Monkey into . . . wait for it . . .a Money Monkey. (I know. I know. My creative naming skills are unsurpassed.)

In order to transform the Money-less Monkey into the Money Monkey, I tucked five dollars into several places uponst the Money Monkey’s person.IMG_0115


I then set myself to wrap the monkey in the most tacky fashion possible. I think I succeeded.IMG_0118


Here is a picture of Nathan meeting the Money Monkey for the first time. Aren’t they so cute together?IMG_0153

IMG_0151

And now, as promised, I present to you the live demonstration of what the Money Monkey from Manteo does when it is being used in the missile-esque way it was intended. Life doesn’t get much more entertaining than this. (I'm not sure why the video is sidewise but you still get the general idea of the Manteo Money Monkey's massively entertaining capabilities. And in case you can't see real clearly what's going on, the monkey "slingshots" across the deck emitting loud, moneky-esque cries.)


video

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Miscellaneous Photos of
Miscellaneous Smith Miscellany

Here are few more pictures from our evening of Pancake Making and Tree Decorating.

In this picture, I was asking Nathan to please just do a "regular expression." You can see how well he listens to his mother. Sigh. I may need to think about returning him for a refund.






Our new kitchen finally feels like home, now that we've cooked our Christmas Pancake Dinner in it.




In case you're wondering, yes we were baking sugar cookies and cooking pancakes at the same time. Part of our tradition is to have sugar cookies and egg nog during the decorating of the tree and we hadn't gotten around to doing the cookies earlier in the day. So had a big ol', happy cooking mess!





Each year when we make the pancakes, the kids always (wistfully) ask if we might have any chocolate chips in the house. And each year I (regretfully) say that we don't. Until this year! We actually had chocolate chips! In the house! Hooray!






One of our church members gave us this ornament. (OBX stands for the Outer Banks, which is the string of barrier islands close to where we live.)



And speaking of ornaments, we asked Nathan to write on the bottom of the ornament he brought home from Jerusalem saying what year he bought it. (And do not even ask me why he's wearing shorts and a t-shirt in December. I think we've had this conversation before.)


A few views of the Smith Tree







Steve speaking at the candlelight communion service last night.



After the service, we came home and opened gifts. Steve always reads the Christmas story before the opening of the gifts commences.


One of the gifts which Nathan opened. There will be more written about this little fella--nicknamed the Money Monkey--in the next couple of days.


And now it's time to pack some stuff and hit the road for Charlotte! I haven't packed a suitcase in two whole weeks, after having packed one every week for several months.


I hope I haven't forgotten how. (Yeah, right.)