Friday, May 21, 2010

Vacation. After The Fact.

I apologize for not getting back here yesterday; life sort of intruded. But I’m back today!

For a little change of pace, let’s leave behind the breast cancer/mastectomy/implant-filling world that I have been unhappily inhabiting for the past few weeks and talk about something a bit more cheerful.

As you may recall, before I had my surgery Steve and I spent a lovely three days in the Rodanthe/Waves/Salvo area of the Outer Banks at a huge, gorgeous beach front home. (Provided free through the generosity of some very special people.) I’ve written about that trip a little and posted a few pictures but after getting sidetracked by all my medical stuff, I just realized I still have a few more stories and pictures to share.

So share I shall! Share I shall do!

One of the wonderful things that the aforementioned special people provided for us (in addition to dropping three bags of fun snacks and groceries by the house after our arrival) was to give us certificates for free meals at several restaurants in the area.

The first one Steve and I went to provided a rare treat—diet root beer in a bottle! My family knows that one of my great luxuries in life is getting to drink a soft drink out of a bottle. It just doesn’t happen very often.

Here I am, gazing lovingly at my bottle. Isn’t that such an inspiring photo?


At another restaurant called Uncle Paulys (our favorite restaurant of them all) I fell in love with the quirky use of color in the ladies bathroom. (I know. I don’t get out much.)




And I especially loved this sign in the midst of all the flamboyant colors. Loved the saying; loved the artwork; loved it all.


Another gift (by the already mentioned aforementioned special couple) was a gift certificate to put toward a piece of handmade jewelry at this wonderful shop in Hatteras.


Wendy, the owner and jewelry designer, showed us a glass bead she had made.


The beads are stored here until ready to be used.


These are “glass sticks” that the jewelry is made from. We had never heard of such a thing and were fascinated to hear Wendy talk about her work.


I wandered around the store for a while and finally chose this lovely set. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but it’s dark brown. And I love wearing brown.


Here’s a close up. (We had Wendy sign it for us, since it was an original piece.)


While we were there, Wendy showed us a special Bible that had been given to her when she was a child. Several years ago after a severe storm, the Bible was washed away in some flooding. Incredibly, a few days later, someone found it several miles away and returned it to her.



On the way out of her store there was an old upright piano which, of course, I had to play.


And at the end of the vacation? Here was the view on the way home. Doesn’t get much better than that.


In other news, a couple of you asked where my sister Ruth lives since she was able to view (and write about) so many species of birds. Ruth, her husband and three children, live in a perfectly lovely part of rural Wisconsin. As you can probably tell, Ruth is a nature lover from way back and the fact that she was able to name all of those birds AND their habits was amazing to me. I could probably identify a robin and a crow. Maybe. (Nature is not my gift.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Am A Chalupa

Good morning!

Sarah and I arrived safely at home last night about 9 pm after a long day of appointments and waiting and more appointments and more waiting. Oh, and also driving. A lot. And eating fast food. A lot.

If we are what we eat, I hate to think of what I am right now! Probably a Chalupa from Taco Bell. (I just LOVE their Chicken Baja Chalupas.)

At any rate, once I actually get up from this recliner and get dressed and eat some breakfast, I will write some more.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring Signs

(Note: Since Sarah and I are traveling today, I have pre-scheduled a piece by a Guest Blogger: my younger sister, Ruth. Every once in awhile, I like to feature her unique, refreshing style of writing here at Smithellaneous. And since we’re in the wonderful Spring/Summer, this piece is especially timely. Enjoy!)

A robin showed up today, unperturbed by wind and snow. Fat in the belly and fleet on the wing, it hopped about in a serious manner chirping out occasional notes full of sweet tones, telling me that winter was on the way out, no two ways about it. He pecked and tugged at a rotten apple then suddenly stood at attention, alert and dignified. Robins never seem to smile, only to march and salute, march and salute, like old-time army generals.

A dozen more of its rusty-toned, finely-vested cronies swiftly settled in the muddy patches of open lawn, keeping politely out of each others’ way, discreetly checking out the sorry condition of turf and leaf under their nimble feet.

Other varieties of winged creatures fluttered with noisy energy around the apple tree, causing a pleasing effect of twittering commotion and confusion. Faithful chickadees and nuthatches perched precariously upside down or any other conceivable direction. The ever-present shadows of juncos were sedately doing ground duty, and a large flock of common redpolls and purple finches charged the feeders, not to be outdone by a swarm of subtle, color-changing goldfinches.

One hairy and two downy woodpeckers came in for a suet snack, while six pesky blue jays crashed the party with screeching alarms for everyone to “clear the area and hit the deck,” as they settled in the top branches, pleased at the effect they gave of efficient, airway- patrolling policemen.

Several mourning doves cooed companionably and were almost outdone by zealous starlings chattering in the cedar tree. A single red-winged blackbird cheered the chilly world with optimistic renditions of “Chunk-a-lee.” A lone bald eagle sailed regally over the western ridge, flanked by an awkward gathering of a dozen geese trailed in his majestic wake.

Three pair of cardinals lurked on the fringes of the crowd, waiting for a decent interval of quiet and sensibility to provide leeway for their shy natures to advance into the unwanted spotlight. Blaring crows crossed over now and then, never stopping but always heading for more exciting fields and woods, looking for the least bit of action with which to amuse their curious natures.

The drumming of a ruffed grouse, somewhat muffled in the deep woods, coupled in rich harmony with the trickling stream of snowmelt running merrily in the ditches. A ringed-necked pheasant zoomed over the temporary spring stream and settled at the roadside, pecking gravel and strutting a bit.

The prize of the day was the momentary sighting of a sand hill crane, high overhead, sending out a loud, rattling call. Huge and ancient-looking, these swamp birds are in the kingly line- up of bird royalty. Closer to home and prancing in the nearby field, a flock of turkeys made their courtly appearance, and the many guttural gobbles made a nice addition to the springtime, wild orchestra.

Hearing and seeing this invigorating display of winged, theatrical performances inspired me to emerge from my winter den and venture forth to walk in the sunlit air and refresh my weary soul with the positive, enthusiastic, welcoming committee of Spring--the arrival of the songbirds.

I am still keeping a lookout for the rest to join the general host and complete the season. Bluebirds should arrive any day now, followed closely by rose-breasted grosbeaks, orioles, and hummingbirds. And for good, reliable rounding-out in the percussion section, the steady beat of spring peepers will add a sweet and humble tone.

Last and best will be the almost invisible whippoorwill, rarely seen but well heard, giving the warming spring nights a compelling and haunting song, old as the hills and eternally faithful.

All of this is truly a gift to be treasured in the ears and heart--the audible love signs of nature, the signs of spring.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saline Saga Sojourns

Yesterday was not a real great day.

It was my first appointment to have my “expanders expanded” and it was all, quite frankly, a bit overwhelming and a lot unnerving. I think that since I had been off all pain meds for four or five days and was starting to feel a bit more “normal,” I was unprepared for yet more trauma, more discomfort.

The visit started off with An Important Question, first asked by the nurse and then asked again by the surgeon when he came in.

“So you had your drains taken out? Were there any problems?”

I smirked to myself and said, “Yes, they were ‘removed locally.’ (Right in my bathroom.) And there were no problems whatsoever. (Except for Steve and I sort of freaking out over yanking long pieces of tubing from my torso.)

I suppose I could have gone ahead and told them that we had removed the drains ourselves. I mean what were they going to do? Sue me? But then I decided to keep that info to myself so as to keep myself from being labeled, “the odd patient,” or even worse, “the difficult patient.” (I could just hear them all in the conference room. “Yup. She just yanked out her own drains. Kind of strange, don’t you think?”)

So at least I have the comfort of knowing that in their minds at least, I am the unstrange patient.

At any rate, after the surgeon finished asking me the initial Very Important Question he followed it up by saying, “So is there anything new going on with you?”

I thought for a moment and then replied, “Well, I just recently had a double mastectomy. That’s pretty new.”

I’m not sure if he’d ever gotten that answer to his casual query before because he seemed slightly taken aback; finally though, he laughed and said, “Well, I guess that’s about enough new stuff for right now, isn’t it?”

How right he was.

I was perched awkwardly on a chair in my little ill-formed, ill-fitting, nil-attractive gown when I was invited to hoist myself up to the examining table for Chapter One of the Saline Saga.

The surgeon patted my breasts a little and said, “Can you feel that?”

I said, “Yup.”

That response caused him to produce a rather long needle which he used to insert a local “pain deadener.” Then he and his nurse did some other sort of strange procedure that enabled them to find the tube thingy that goes into each expander. The surgeon then brought out a humongous syringe (He said, “I recommend that you don’t look”) and proceeded to pump saline into the expander under my chest muscle.

To say it felt weird and discombobulating would be an understatement. All of a sudden my chest felt achy and tight and strange and I thought, “You know what? I don’t really like this. I don’t really like anything about this. I’m already tired of this whole stinkin’ process, and we’ve barely even started.”

When the surgeon was done he left the room and his (very nice) nurse informed me that it was now time to remove the stitches from my breasts. Oh happy day.

Saline in. Stitches out. All in ten minutes.

When she was done with that delightsome procedure, she had me sit back up so she could look at my overall pectoral picture. (Wasn’t that delicate?) She blithely informed me that some women have issues where one breast (and expander) might float up toward their necks and the other one might sink down under their arms.

I stared at her in bewilderment. Really? Could that possible be true?

Turns out ‘tis true. Turns out she jesteth not.

I thought, “Oh goody. Something for me to look forward to. A tight, aching chest enhanced by rambling breast units. Maybe I’ll start a whole new fashion.”

I was feeling even more dispirited by that time, even thought she happily informed me that mine were looking good and very even. “However," she added, “As time goes by and more saline is injected, well, who knows what might happen then? It could definitely get more uncomfortable and things might shift around more.”

Have a nice day.

I was really surprised at how low I felt after leaving the office. Although the surgeon and nurse could not have been any more personable or caring, I felt teary and tremble-y and shaky and sad and traumatized.

And I just felt weary. Deep down, deep-in-the-bone weary. Sick and tired of people messing with my personal parts and sick and tired of the knowledge that nothing in that area would ever be the same again. I think that what I felt was simply grief. Another layer of grief.

On the way home, I felt quite “full” in the chest area which was a bit uncomfortable. I also felt overwhelmingly weary and finally had to stop mid way home for a brief nap. I felt like I wanted to go crawl in a hole somewhere and pull the lid down over me. I just wanted it all to go away.

When I got home, I had another nap, a long cry, and then it was dinner time. We had been given a certificate to a Honey Baked Ham store so we were feasting on one of their delectable delights. (Yum.) Everyone was cheerful and entertaining and sweet and I was enjoying their company so much but deep down, I felt myself sinking lower and lower. And it must have even started coming out in my speech because at one point, Nathan peered worriedly across the table at me and said, “Mom, are you on some kind of medication?”

Although I told him no, “medicated” was actually about how I felt. I felt like I had taken some immensely powerful downers which were turning me into a mass of oozing weariness right there at the table.

Sarah and I read together before bed time (we do that four or five times a week) and then I just got into bed and sobbed. Steve came and found me, prayed with me, brought me Kleenex and by 9 pm, I was ready to doze off, hoping against hope that sleep, The Great Healer, would do its thing and restore me to a semblance of joy in the morning.

And today, I do feel a whole lot better. I slept a solid nine hours and woke up feeling fairly refreshed.

Next Monday, I get to repeat the happy little trip to the surgeon’s office where even more saline will be injected into The Units. There will be two or three more Saline Saga Sojourns after that and then (I just learned this yesterday) I will have to wait at least three months before I can have the surgery to replace the expanders with permanent implants.

I’m sure that in the Fall I will be able to write a very fascinating piece called, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

You won’t want to miss it.


In other news, Sarah and I are headed out in an hour or two for an overnight trip to Durham. I’ll be posting a little bit about that on her her page in a little while.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Birthday Squirt

Friday night we had a few people over for Steve’s birthday dinner.

Here is his birthday cake in its naked form. (I know this is a G-rated blog and I apologize in advance for featuring such blatant Cake Nekkidness right here on the Web.)


And here is the cake in its dressed form. It looked fairly lovely except for the fact that I learned (too late) that if you’re going to drizzle decorative syrup over your nicely dressed birthday cake, you should wait until right before serving it to do so. Otherwise the syrup gets sort of melt-y and dribbles down the sides and become altogether unattractive. Sigh. Live and learn.


Here is a lemon pie that one of the birthday guests brought. I took a picture of it because I was inordinately jealous of the perfection of the meringue. I’ve never made meringue in my entire life and I feel just slightly inferior to all the other women in the world who are accomplished meringue makers. Sigh. Maybe I should go to therapy. Followed by cooking class.


Isn’t this just the most beautiful meringue ever?


During the meal, we had a plastic spray bottle nearby because we learned in Snowy College that when a dog is engaging in unwanted behavior, (like begging) a little squirt with the bottle gets his attention and reminds him to (hopefully) not repeat that particular behavior.

After dinner, when I brought the cake in (with great fanfare and trumpets—or at least, fanfare) I did not notice that my mischievous pastor husband was holding the dreaded spray bottle in his hand. Look at that innocence shining from his face.

(I apologize for the quality of these photos; I was messing with the settings and threw something off.)


As I was merrily singing Happy Birthday to my beloved hubby, the man SQUIRTED me! In the FACE! And me being post-surgical and EVERYTHING! After screeching and wiping my face, I wrenched the spray bottle from his hands. And squirted him back! Our guests looked on worriedly. Were the pastor and his wife going to have a throw down fight right there in front of them?


But no. Forgiveness flowed. Sort of. At least Steve was hoping forgiveness was flowing.


Then he pretended he was going to put out the candles with the water bottle. (Which he had wrenched back from my hand.) Such a kidder.


We finally settled down and he made his wish and blew out his candles.

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Can you tell we’re easily entertained?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Sunday

It was my first day back at church after being gone for three Sundays. I actually had several members not recognize me and welcome me as a first time visitor. (Just kidding!)

Earlier this week, Steve proclaimed a husbandly/pastoral edict that I should have a new outfit on my first Sunday back, so that I would feel confident and lovely after all the trauma I had been through. And I actually went to a “new store” to shop instead of a thrift store. How radical was that?

I found a cute little dress for $35 which made me quite happy--the dress AND the price.


Considering I looked like this three weeks ago, I think I’m doin’ okay!


It was really a strange feeling to buy something new; I’m just not used to such blatant profligacy!

Actually, Sarah is very much like me in that regard. A new T. J. Maxx just opened near us and even though we don't shop "new" a lot, it was rather exciting for Sarah and me to have this addition to the area. We drove over there last week to shop for Steve’s birthday and to see what other fabulous finds we could discover. Sarah had her little wallet of savings with her and found four or five items that she fell in love with. As we left the store she said, “You know, Mom, I’m used to leaving a thrift store with a bag this size and only paying $10 for it. This is sort of a strange feeling and I’m not sure I like it.”

Ahh. A (bargain shoppin’) woman after my own heart.

And speaking of Sarah, she was part of a drama/music program at church this morning; it was especially nice that Nathan got to be in town to see it.

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She loves doing that sort of thing and I love seeing her do it!

Tomorrow I head out to see the plastic surgeon for my first “Filling Them Up” appointment. That should be an interesting experience. In fact, the next few months in general should be interesting as I navigate all the twists and turns of reconstruction. I’m sure it will be entertaining and uncomfortable and tiring and weird and humorous—all at the same time!

And then Tuesday and Wednesday, Sarah and I have a trip out of town, which I’ll be writing about soon on her site So lots going on!

I’m just so happy that I’m feeling almost normal again and am getting back into real life. So much to be thankful for today.