Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blue Angels and Pizza Hut

The Blue Angel Air Show was great! We took tons of pictures but since I don't want you to feel like you're drowning in a Picture Ocean, I have whittled (or is it, winnowed?) them down to just a few.

Nathan and Sarah on the shuttle bus. Nathan is pretending that he doesn't know that he's leaning back against Sarah. Such a kidder! (Note: You can double click on the photos to make them bigger.)

Sarah with one of the amazing pilots.

Steve was, of course, in airplane heaven. I'll give you three guesses as to what he was talking about!

The pilot, not to be outdone, came up with some "sign language" of his own.

A couple more family/airplane pix . . .

This is the happy look on Nathan's face when we told him we were going out for pizza! Our family hasn't been out to eat in a very long time and so we thoroughly enjoyed our stop at Pizza Hut. Nathan never stopped smiling, even while he was chewing!

And one last photo . . .

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Whiz Dad and an Air Show

Nathan's car went on the blink this week so he's learning some mechanical skills to get it fixed. Looking at pictures like these always makes me so thankful that my "thing" is not working on cars. The pictures do make me thankful, however, for the great dad that Steve is as he takes the time to teach Nathan the stuff he needs to know. (And the things that I can't teach.)

Along with car repair, Steve's other main "dad job" is to teach Nathan about finances, check books, and loan rates. We all know that I start to hyperventilate and my brain turns into a big jelly bean when I even start to think about numbers; I'm happy that Steve is a number whiz, a car whiz, a dad whiz, and a husband whiz.

I also want to take a moment to tell all the single parents out there how greatly I admire you for your diligence as you accomplish the jobs of two people. I honestly don't see how you manage it all and I send out hugs and encouragement to you today, along with a virtual pat on the back for giving your kids so much of your time, energy, and love when there doesn't always seem like there's enough to go around.

This afternoon, the four of us are headed out to the Blue Angels Air Show. Sarah decided to go along with us after all which I'm thrilled about. Since our finances are a bit limited, family outings are few and far between and this will give us a chance to do something together that's free, exciting, and really, really cool!

Sarah remembered that the last time we went to an air show (and she was so bothered by the noise of the planes), she was coming down with a cold and just felt crummy overall. I think the fact that she feels well this year will make a big difference in how she gets along.

She did well at the dentist yesterday although she was very relieved to have it over with. When she got home, she went online and spent her Barnes and Noble gift card which brought a huge smile, even to a numb and swollen mouth.

I'm in the process of ordering more Letters to Obama books so go ahead and get your order in if you'd like one! (See order info in the column to the right.)

I'll be picking up Sarah from school in about an hour so we can leave for the show. And as hard as this may be for you to believe, I might even take one or two (or three) pictures while we're there. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Announcement Part 2

A couple of you have signed the guest book inquiring about the Letters to Obama book. Just to let you know, we can order plenty more of the books if we run out; however, we didn't want to order lots and lots of them and then sell only a few. (So far we've sold over a hundred Chicken Soup books, so that's been good!)

And yes, you can order them from any bookseller online but I don't think they're available in local stores right now unless you special order them.

If you'd like to reserve a copy from the order of six that is coming in this week, shoot me a quick email at That will help me plan whether or not I need to order more.

In Non-Book Sarah News, Sarah is going to the dentist this afternoon to have her second cavity filled and she is NOT looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the hygienist who was with her last time said to her, "We'll fill the top one first because the bottom one will hurt more."


Why would she tell a 13-year old who's already apprehensive about fillings that the bottom one would hurt more?

Well, since Sarah's been through a bone marrow transplant, I get the feeling she can handle a filling. I just wish her hygienist would have been a bit more encouraging!

Thankfully, someone sent her an online Barnes and Noble certificate so she's looking forward to spending that when she gets through her trauma.

Hurray for Barnes and Noble!

Histrionic Fainting Spells and Another Book Announcement

I think I have decided that I like getting moles removed from my back better than from my front. When they're working on my back, I can't see what they're doing which is much less traumatic. Yesterday, while lying on the surgery table, I could see thread and needles and a scalpel with blood (MY blood!) on it and it was just a bit much.

When I was telling Sarah about it later she said, "Well, why didn't you close your eyes?"

Good question. And the answer is that I am just so doggone curious about everything that I couldn't keep myself from looking. But looking made me kind of queasy. And yet I couldn't stop.

Yep, I know. I'm strange.

It reminds of back when Sarah was in treatment and was scheduled for a bone marrow biopsy. (That lovely procedure consists of drilling holes in both hips and removing marrow.) I got it in my head that it would be very interesting to watch this procedure being done because, once again, I'm curious about stuff!

I was all calm and cool as they started and was feeling quite pleased with myself that I was getting to observe such a fascinating procedure.

Those lovely, fluffy feelings did not last long. Not long at all.

Maybe if they had been working on a stranger, I might have done better. But it suddenly hit me that they were drilling holes into the bones of MY daughter. And on top of that realization, there was some blood visible. And then it occurred to me rather quickly that I had better turn my head and take deep breaths or they were going to have a second patient on their hands.

So at any rate, that was the last bone marrow biopsy I witnessed, although I am proud to say, I did make it out of the room without any histrionic fainting spells. That should count for something, right?

Now for the book announcement.

I had mentioned a couple months ago that Sarah had been invited to write a letter to be included in a book called, "Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope from Children Across America."

Well, the book is now available online through Barnes and Noble and other major online book retailers. I found recently that there were 1000 letters submitted and only about 179 that were used. And one of them was Sarah's!

Here's a brief synopsis of the book:

On November 5th, 2008, journalists Bruce Kluger and David Tabatsky (editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book) had a simple idea: to recapture the exhilarating spirit of the 2008 election from the perspective of our nation's children.

They emailed a handful of friends. Those friends forwarded the email to their friends and relatives. In the end, the same infectious enthusiasm that fueled the Obama campaign itself produced the letters and drawings collected here. From every region of the country, from ages four to 18, these kids talk about their hopes, fears, and dreams, and their unchecked excitement about the historic election that took place during their young lives.

In her foreword to the book, TV veteran Linda Ellerbee (Nick News) summarizes the one theme that runs through all of the children's letters: " Kids really get it, " she writes, "And, after getting it, they often want to change it. They believe they can change their world. They understand that citizenship doesn’t start when you’re 18; it starts the day you’re born. They are passionate and they want to participate. And that is the kind of honesty you will find in this book."

Since the company that is putting out this book is much smaller than the Chicken Soup franchise, we get only a very small price break buying the book ourselves. However, we are going to purchase six of them so that if you would really and truly like Sarah's autograph on her very first book, you may purchase the book from us for $25. (includes shipping) Obviously you can get it a bit cheaper online but it won't have passed through Sarah's sweet hands before you get it! (Ordering address is in the right column.)

So that's the latest Smith Book Scoop. Let me just close by saying that we are so very proud of Princess Groovy Chick, a real live published author!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scary Doctor Report

I have survived my fourth throat scope/stroboscopy in as many months. Yea and hooray!

Happily, my relaxing medicine kicked in and thoroughly did its job; in fact, by the time we left the hospital I was so extremely and exceedingly mellow that I fell asleep almost as soon as we left the parking lot.

I'm still feeling a bit spacey; thankfully though, my hubby and daughter made dinner for me. When I woke up from my second nap after getting home, everything was on the table and ready to go! How nice is that?

Steve and I were both so impressed with the people at Chapel Hill-UNC Medical Center. We were there two hours and only about 10 minutes of that was spent waiting. Usually, I'm at appointments for two hours and only 10 minutes of that time is spent being seen by someone. What a nice reversal.

I started out by spending almost an hour with a speech pathologist who had me do all sorts of unusual things with my voice; she also recorded me and listened to me and asked me all sorts of questions.

And then it was time to be ushered into the Scary Doctor's examing room. Before he came in, however, another doctor made an appearance and asked a few more questions and did a head/neck exam. She earned by undying approval and admiration when she told Steve and me about all the times she has allowed med students to do a throat scope on her to practice. She said, "Yeah, I've had a lot of students who have no idea what they're doing stick this thing up my nose. Lots of fun!" I was in awe that anyone would be brave enough for that and immediately wanted to give her some sort of award.

And then at long last, the Scary Doctor showed up. I liked him as soon as I saw him; he was friendly, personable, cheery and extremely knowledgeable. He asked a few more questions, had someone spray the lovely stuff up my nose and within three minutes (they must have the super-fast numbing spray), he had the long camera/strobe light tube efficiently inserted into my nostril and down my throat.

I was aware of feeling very calm and non-panicky which certainly helped the proceedings quite a bit. And it's a good thing I was feeling calm because this particular doctor was not content to let me just sit there in silence like my local doctor was. For three or four minutes, I had to say words, hum, do la-la-la's and lots of other fun vocal exercises. I don't know if you've ever tried to sing with a camera stuffed up your nose but it is really quite the adventure.

Finally we got to the to the wonderful point in the day where he pulled the big long thingie out and said, "That's it!" I always have this overwhelming urge to hug my doctors when they do that because it is such an incredibly fantastic feeling.

And the results?

Even though he is an outstanding surgeon, he is one of those doctors who looks at surgery as a very last resort. He said the test definitely showed some problems though, mainly that my vocal chords are not closing completely, for reasons he doesn't understand. Also, the vocal cords on either side are not moving in a symetrical fashion. He did see the lesion on the vocal cord that the other ENT had seen but he said that fortunately it was not in a place that would cause problems. However, he said if it ever started to bleed (which is certainly a possibility) then he would need to be notified immediately and would probably do surgery at that point.

But for now he said that the vocal fatigue, hoarseness and loss of the notes from the top of my range are being caused by the two problems mentioned above. The solution? Extensive vocal therapy. He is fairly confident that undergoing the therapy (by a woman on his staff who has a doctorate in vocal performance) will go a long way toward helping to improve my voice.

Of course, he understands that we're dealing with the added complexity of COPD and since singing and speaking require plenty of air, having COPD will probably keep me from making a full recovery.

He also said that many times the medication taken for COPD does damage to vocal cords that cannot be reversed. However, he said that if the medication is making a difference in my lung function than I should continue with it because there's no sense in having good vocal cords if I don't have any air to push through them.

All in all, it's kind of a convoluted, complex situation but the good news is that surgery is not necessary at the moment and he does think that I can get some help with therapy.

For now, I'm just going to take my tired brain and weary body to bed and not think about all of this anymore until tomorrow. I don't know why these visits are so stressful for me but when I get home, I feel a lot like a wet noodle. And this wet noodle is off to bed.

Good night, all! Thanks so much for your prayers and support.

In the Hallway

Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'd been getting out of the habit of going as frequently as I should, but when I saw the scale numbers start to creep back up I figured it was time to get a grip and get going! (No gym+one ton of malted milk balls=creeping scales. THAT kind of math equation, I understand.)

I've discovered that gym-going is not just good for my physical self, it's also good for my emotional self. As you can probably imagine, these past months have not been easy ones for Steve and me and it's pretty easy to get depressed over this particular chapter of life. It's amazing though, how some time on the treadmill working up a sweat can help to scatter the blues and give my mind a fresh grip on life.

So anyway, I had just finished my tiring but rejuventating workout yesterday when I ran into an old friend. He asked how we were doing (which is a hard question to answer truthfully without giving too many dire details) and then he said something that really caught my attention.

He said, "They always say that when God closes one door, He opens another. But it's the time spent in the hallway inbetween that's really tough."

Those words really hit me as a perfect way to describe where we are--we are "in the hallway." And hallways are generally not places where a lot of living goes on; they're just empty, blank spaces whose purpose is to take you from one place to another.

I know there may be some other hallway dwellers who are reading these words and I just want to tell you that I understand where you are! The good news is that hallways aren't forever. Eventually that other door opens and the hallway is left behind. In the meantime, we know that since God is everywhere, He inhabits hallways, too. We're not alone here in this empty space and where God is, there is the assurance that everything is going to be okay.

After I got home from the gym (and my hallway lesson), I fixed dinner for the family and then Steve and I took a walk. There are few places more beautiful than North Carolina in the springtime and it was a perfectly clear, calm evening with things blooming everywhere. It's hard to stay depressed when life is just bustin' out all over!

By this time, it was about 7 pm and after forty-five minutes at the gym and thirty minutes walking, my body was telling me it had had quite enough, thank you. However, as we rounded the corner to our house, we noticed that Nathan was outside shooting baskets. I looked at Steve and said, "Let's go over and play with him for a few minutes."

You should have seen Nathan grin when his (almost) over-the-hill parents arrived on the scene saying we wanted to play. I knew I would last all of about five minutes (due to my not-so-great lungs) but I gave it everything I had and even managed to make four lay-ups in a row! (Where are the ESPN cameras when you need them?)

Nathan just kept on grinning and playing and running huge "Nathan circles" around Steve and me while we tried desperately to pretend like we had some idea of what was going on. As I finally bowed out with great gasping breaths Nathan looked at me and said, "Mom, you have natural basketball ability. I think you've just been hiding it all these years."

I didn't know whether or I should laugh (at such a ridiculous idea) or cry (because he was so dear and serious when he said it) but since I had no remaining oxygen for either reaction, I just gave him a big grin and dragged my wilting self back into the house.

The gym. A Walk. A round of basketball.

Take THAT, you malted milk balls!

In two hours, Steve and I will leave for the Scary Doctor for my 1 pm appointment. (Bring on the happy medicine!) Even though I'm dreading it, I'll go through just about anything in the hopes that someone will eventually find out what's going on with my "now you hear it, now you don't" voice. I'm certainly hoping the solution will not involve surgery but I'm desperate enough for about anything.

Alrighty then. I guess it's time for me to take my "built for basketball" body off and get ready for the day. (Or maybe I should say my "built LIKE a basketball" body.) Yup. That's definitely more accurate.

Either way, I'm just thankful that we can still play basketball, laugh and live life--even in the hallway.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Week in Review. Sort of.

Oh wait, I can't review a week that hasn't happened yet, can I?

Or can I? This is my blog, after all. If I want to review events that haven't yet happened, I may! I might! I shall! I will! I am! (And other exclamatory words!)

So. On to the "Review."

First of all, because I by no means wish to suffer alone, I will take this opportunity to remind you all of my trip tomorrow to Chapel Hill for a visit with yet another Scary Doctor. This is the doctor who is planning on sticking a camera AND a strobe light up my nose and down my throat.

Why is that I'm not feeling very excited about that?

It will be at least three hours round trip, plus the visit itself so Steve and I will be gone most of the day. However, since I'll be happily full of my relaxing medicine, the whole day will probably just zoom by and I'll just be a perpetually happy camper throughout.

Or, on the other hand, maybe the happy medicine won't do its job and I will end up throwing up all over the Scary Doctor. One never knows.

Stay tuned for this exciting breaking news.

On Wednesday, I get to go back to my dermatologist to have the mole on my chest "re-excised." Or whatever it is they do when they remove it the first time and still don't have clear margins.

So I'm looking forward to cameras up my nose on Tuesday and sharp objects and stitches applies to my person on Wednesday.

Do I know how to have fun, or what?

And speaking of fun, here is Steve staggering under the weight of a pile of insurance statements for Sarah and me from the last several years. We're just trying to do our little part to keep the North Carolinian medical industry healthy.

This Friday, Make-A-Wish has invited its families to the Blue Angels Air Show dress rehearsal. Sarah isn't going to go this time around because she'd have to miss school; also, the last time she went, all the noise from the planes was very distressing to her. But you can bet Steve and Nathan will be there with bells on. And I might even go too; it just depends on whether or not I feel like another outing after the aforementioned "camera up the nose, sharp objects applied to body" outings.

And so there you have it. The Week in Review. Sort of.

Now let me do a "Last Night In Review."

Last night, we had our family portraits done. Snowy even went along and behaved himself rather stunningly. The portraits were provided through an organization called, "The Littlest Heroes Project." This organization provides free family portrait sessions for cancer families by utilizing the talents of professional photographers from around the country who volunteer their time and services. Last night we were paired with Amy from Serenity Photography in Raleigh; she and her colleague, Pam, were delightful to work with. Since (between the two of them) they took about 800 photos, we should definitely get something we like! I'll be posting some of the pictures in the next week or so.

And now I'll go ahead and close with all the exciting breaking news concerning the sale of our house, Steve's new pastoral position, and our move to a new town.

Oh wait. There is no breaking news.

Never mind.