Saturday, September 25, 2010

Going Off On A Day Off Outing

On Steve’s day off this week, we went puttering around a nearby plant nursery.  At some point in our near future, we would like to clean up and rearrange the shrubs at the front of our house which are  currently living a rather helter-skelter life, without much of a rhythm or rhyme.  (If plants can, indeed, rhyme.)

So off we went, on our day off outing.  I haven’t spent much time at a plant nursery before, since I have the blackest thumb imaginable, but I quickly discovered that one doesn’t need a green thumb to enjoy the beauty of such a place. While Steve talked “plant talk” with an employee, I wandered around in a rather merry fashion with camera in hand.

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And one more bonus shot!  (If you can’t see all the words, the sign says, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten.”)

Love it!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Helpfulness.

I really love finding helpful information and various websites from all around here and there. And since I have a few I’ve gathered up, I thought I’d be especially super nice and share them with you. Let me know if any of them are helpful to you!

COUPON/BARGAIN SITES

Retail Me Not

Southern Savers

Coupon Cabin


HOUSE RELATED

Arrange A Room

Play with furniture arrangements, save your floor plan and print it when you’re ready to take action.


EDUCATIONAL/GENERAL INFORMATION

Bib Me

Just type in the title or author’s name of the book, magazine, or newspaper article. The site does all the appropriate formatting to create a neat and detailed bibliography.


Scholar Google

This only checks scholarly works: papers, books and articles from academic publishers, professional societies, etc. Allows you to skip potentially unreliable sources for homework when using regular Google.


The Free Dictionary

Scan definitions, hear correct pronunciation, get dozens of translations, even play hangman or enter a cyber spelling bee.


WolframAlpha

Answers any math problem will tackle nonmath queries as well. Its long term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.


Tutor.Com

If your student needs help right now, she can log in here anytime and someone well versed in the subject will meet her in a secure, online classroom. No appointment is required and you pay only for the minutes she uses. (Plans start at $35 for 60 minutes) Tutor.com runs all its tutors through a thorough screening and certification process.


AND FINALLY, A TRULY COOL WEBSITE; JUST CLICK TO SEE WHAT I MEAN

All My Faves

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Frugal Beauty. Swan Shed.

If you’ve been coming to Smithellaneous very long, you know that I sometimes share some of the beautiful writings from my younger sister, Ruth. Before I post one today, though, I’d like to show you another way that she expresses beauty.

As a bit of background: Ruth and Arnold have lived in rural Wisconsin ever since they were married. Along with their kids, they lived in a quaint, charming, temperamental, beloved old farm house until it burned to the ground several years ago.

Starting from scratch, on the very land where the farmhouse once stood, Arnold started re-building. Except for getting the rafters in place and laying the foundation, Arnold did every bit of the work himself. Is he a talented fella or what? (Of course, Ruth was right beside him all the way, helping in a hundred different ways.)

When the house was built, they did an almost miraculous job of furnishing and decorating it. You have to remember that every stick of furniture and decoration they owned went up in smoke and they were having to start from scratch. You also need to know that Ruth is one of the thriftiest people I know and is just about allergic to buying anything new. In these pictures, the only new things you will see are the major pieces of furniture, which they bought at an overstock/damaged goods store. Everything else was bought at yard sales, thrift stores, auctions, etc.

Ruth and Arnold did such an incredible job of creating a simple, lovely home; here are a few pictures showing their new “humble palace,” set amidst the rolling fields of Wisconsin.

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Here is the Rehberg family in 2006 at my mom and dad’s 50th anniversary celebration. Ruth was reading a piece she had written for mom and dad and started crying so they came up to comfort her. Tears and comfort among people who love each other reveals yet another kind of beauty!

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And speaking of beauty, here is another piece of Ruth’s writing. It’s especially timely in that it mentions September—the month we’re in and the month of Ruth’s birthday.


SWAN SHED

By Ruth Rehberg

It is mid-morning and a rising mist borne on a light breeze swirls my hair. The evocative scent of the salt laden sea is faint on the moving air. I breathe in, eyes closed and smile. That smell always brings to me a sense of urgency and a reckless desire to explore; it makes me feel like I need to move, to search, to run, to soar, to do anything, in fact, but stand still. But standing still is what I am doing at the moment, fixing my gaze on a weather beaten, tin shed that is sitting at an angle far off in the rough field before me.

I set out toward it, avoiding heavy clods of earth, brushing the blowing hair from my eyes, scanning the broad, deserted field which is empty except for the small shed perched so precariously on the earth. I imagine that it is the only source of habitation for miles and miles on these coastal plains of North Carolina. I am set back in time a bit, alone but not lonely, free at that moment to be whoever I wish--maybe just plain old me, or maybe someone new. Free to explore the hidden paths of life stretching in a tantalizing array of twists and turns, far ahead in my youthful imagination.

Having recently arrived at the fresh age of eighteen in that misty month of September, I am intent on taking life moment by moment. The future is full of goodness and nothing can touch the glory and brightness it holds, spotless and pure in my mind, absolutely breathtaking. I am young, strong and unperturbed by worry or doubts that may lie sunken like pesky potholes, just waiting for my sure feet to plunge into. Youthful optimism assures me that I will deftly evade such silly traps. I am smart and sure of myself, more than I’ve ever been before. Fascinating adulthood looms magnificently ahead me.

What is so hard about being an adult anyway? The dull picture of drudgery portrayed by a few plodding people is not for me; no unwanted responsibilities will weigh me down. I mentally make this important decision with na├»ve determination as I trudge closer to the shed. I will live my life with constant, positive hope and beauty, eagerly seizing life’s open bag of surprises that lures me onward to always explore, always be fully alive.

The gray shed has three windows, no glass, a rotting floor and a creaking, one-hinged door. A brown field mouse makes a hurried departure under the gaping floorboards as I sit down and stretch my legs on the sloping doorstep. Perfect. A private place to dream and to while away an hour or so. The sun warms the tall grasses, touching my uplifted face and emboldening the songbirds to flit and soar, singing on wings of enviable grace and freedom.

After a wonderfully endless time of relaxing and musing about nothing much at all, a strange sound comes to me over the damp, salty breeze. Craning my neck around the corner of the lopsided door, I see a huge flock of migrating, whistling swans circling low. Some are starting to settle on the wide field and a thrill surges up in me. I love these rare, beautiful birds, so huge and cottony white, emitting endearing honks that carry a distinctive tone of vulnerability.

Some sense of implicit trust is communicated in their ceaseless calling to one another. They seem so connected yet still so individual. They are able to rise and fly at any second or else they can decide to just keep flocking about in cozy chaos, brushing up against other regal white wings, content to abide in the atmosphere of the flock community. It is beautiful, the sight of these living colors mixing effortlessly--black earth and white bird, the two basic hues from which other colors emerge.

I could listen to their wild, winsome voices all day; instead though, I begin a slow, stealthy approach toward the flapping, feeding ground. Not content to observe them from a distance, I decide that I must get closer, rush right into their exclusive circle and be invigorated by the wild spirit they spill so lavishly out into the cool day--free for the taking.

The radiance of their majestic forms puffs up like milkweed fluff, spirited shadows scudding off into the fall breeze, calling me to join their royal parade over the mottled earth. Their beauty and glory is striking against this natural background and I feel that their brief presence has somehow hallowed this drab parcel of ground. A shock treatment of splendid glory has illuminated it, a shining, white waltz of flowing music is the transient scene I am beholding.

Moving, pausing . . .moving, pausing . . .I am making progress toward my swan flock. They’re still there, watchful but not alarmed. Their form and movements are throwing out rays of magnetism to me, I want to be enclosed in the fluid company of downy soft bodies, plunge into their midst and inhale the wild magic fluttering off their huge, wing tips.

Suddenly a few dozen swans lift off, honking fervently, releasing anxiety to the milling crowd below. I hold my breath and stop stock-still. The grounded birds crane long nervous necks worriedly around, then settle down once more, intent on feeding and rest. Crouching low, I continue closer, wondering how I should go about covering the last few yards between us.

Breaking into a run I’m there, flowing right into the rising current of a colossal take-off. A hundred huge, writhing bodies hurtle skyward, pulled into the windy heavens by invisible cords of power and strength. The sound of whirring wings rushes into my head, rapturous music to my eager ears. Head held back, I’m looking up into the blur of a feathery storm of swans blown above the gravitational hold of earth, reaching for warm, lofty airwaves, rapidly leaving this humble sanctuary behind.

As I stand far below still gazing, they merge into the instinctive “V” formation, the cry of adventure ringing in their whistling song. I am silent and rooted, frozen like a clay statue, still watching until the last speck of the flock is gone.

Was it worth joining them, disturbing their peaceful existence just to satisfy my selfish spirit? Just to try and inhale some of their wild nature?

Yes, it was, I decide. To mingle with the glory of nature is always worthwhile; we do so little of it, letting it pass by with open but staring, unseeing eyes, content to trod our human pathways, rarely glancing or pausing to be uplifted by the natural world around us all.

I learned something that day. I learned to take any moment available. I learned to soak my life in the available solitude and peace that is swirling visibly alongside my daily life. It is always there, somewhere, if I care to seek it out. I found a way to enrich my soul at the sweet age of eighteen. Harmless, positive, free and magnificent. What a great gift has been given . . .take and receive.

Traveling on into new years of marriage and responsibility, away from that idealistic time, I keep the gift close by, protecting and sharing it with my children, hoping they will perceive the wonder of this bountiful world sooner than I did. It’s always here, never failing, continuously filling the physical senses with immense awe and amazement that has flooded the people of our earth since the first whistling swan took joyful flight . . . from the open hand of God.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Surgery

After my appointment with my surgeon today, it seems as though I will need to have yet another surgery; it's been scheduled for three weeks from today. (He can't do it any earlier due to the fact that he has to wait a certain amount of time following the exchange surgery for healing to take place.)

There are a couple things going on that he wants to work on. The issue that was causing me the pain under my left arm is due to some sort of tendon or muscle thingie that "popped out" from its surroundings and is protruding, which makes that whole area hurt. (He had some big name for it but I don't remember it.) He has to fix that surgically and also do some work on the implant "pockets."

Just like with the exchange surgery, this surgery won't be as difficult as the mastectomy, but it will still require at least a week or two of recovery, especially with the arm situation.

So anyway, that's the deal on that.

Ta-ta for now!

Off To The Doctor. And Loveliness.

I was originally scheduled to go back to my plastic surgeon next Monday but I’ve been having some pain and other problems so they told I needed to come in today instead so that they could check me over and see what’s going on.  So off I go on another Happy (Long) Road Trip! 

I mentioned “loveliness” in my title and the first picture of loveliness I’d like to show you is one that features things that are not usually considered lovely as a rule.  Men’s shoes.  Plaid shorts.  A suitcase.

But in this case, those items are lovely because they mean that Steve made it safely home from Florida on Sunday night and it’s just so very, extremely, exceedingly lovely to have him back at home.

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And now for a few more traditional views of loveliness, some of them even featuring the owner of said suitcase.

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And my favorite . . .

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Twenty-One. Part 2.

On September 18, 1989, Nathan was born in Charlotte, NC after a pregnancy filled with complications.  I gained 60 pounds with him and lost 35 pounds the day he was born;  that tells you how much water I was retaining! Since I had severe pre-eclampsia which was headed quickly to toxemia, Nathan had to be induced about a week early.

We were happy, excited and pleased as punch to finally get to bring him home with us. The little guy was full of personality and giggles and melted our hearts into pools of parental puddles the moment we saw him.

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Now when I say we brought him “home,” you new readers may not realize that at that particular time in Smith History, home was a 40-foot RV that we lived in full time.  And not just Steve, Nathan and me, but also my sister, Debbie, and her husband, Randy.  The RV afforded the five of us 275 square feet of space. To live in. All the time. Twenty-four hours a day.

I will say this much.  Nathan had the potential to become the most spoiled child ever. I mean, think about it. It was just him and FOUR adults--cooing over him every minute of every day.  Randy and Debbie didn’t have children at that point so Nathan was their baby to practice on.  And love.  And diaper-change. And feed.  And burp. 

For two years straight, the five of us lived together and though, of course, Nathan doesn’t remember those days, a spot in his heart, a place in his psyche, and a part of his personality all have Randy and Debbie’s name written on them.

He was a blessed baby.

During the two-week break that Nathan (and I) got from the road after he was born, we stayed with Steve’s parents at their house in Charlotte.  A couple days after we brought Nathan home from the hospital, Hurricane Hugo hit and we were without power for over a week.  One newborn.  No power. Such fun!

So basically Nathan traveled full time from the age of two weeks until the age of twelve when we left the road to get Sarah into cancer treatment.  And he also traveled—in utero—full time from the moment of his conception until he came into the world.  He was most definitely “born a ramblin’ man.”

Nathan has been cuddled and oohed over and rocked by more grandma’s (from all over the United States) than you can ever imagine.  The kid has never met a stranger.

When Nathan was six, we welcomed Sarah into the Smith Traveling Life.  (We were still living in the same RV but by that time, Randy had Debbie were in their own RV so we all had a bit more space.)    Nathan was such a doting big brother and was an excellent  “Sarah sitter” when we had to rehearse or get some office work done.  He has always been able to make her giggle and smile and he especially brought those talents to bear during her illness when she felt her worst. If anyone could make her smile during that time, it was Nathan.

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Nathan and Sarah started out pretty entranced with each other when they were young and things haven’t changed much since then.  The picture in the middle is one of my favorites; Nathan had just caught his first glimpse of Sarah in the hospital.

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Through the years, the two of them have had fun together, annoyed each other and loved each other. He’s a blessed big brother and she’s a blessed little sister.

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I’ll close out with a few more miscellaneous Nathan pictures; some that were in the video (posted Saturday) and some that weren’t.

This is such a happy picture; I’ve always loved it.

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Books were always a part of our kids’ lives.

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Since Nathan had been read to so much, he figured he’d pass the “reading blessing” along.

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He also attempted to lead his little sis in prayer over their meal but you can tell she’s got her eyes open and is peeking.

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Standing in front of our big RV-pullin’ semi, ready for yet another church service/concert.

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This is one of my very favorite pictures of the two of them.  We were in a hotel room in some state somewhere getting ready for a concert.  Their expressions tell a thousand stories.

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How I loved that handsome  little face.

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And then a few years passed and that handsome little face turned into a handsome bigger face. And then the handsome bigger face—attached to handsome bigger body--moved away.  Sigh.

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But we still have pictures and memories.  Here’s Nathan speaking on Father’s Day a couple years ago.

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A mission trip to Ecuador.

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And the most recent pictures are a few from his 21st birthday party last Saturday.

Before they ate, everyone went around the circle and said something they liked or appreciated about Nathan.

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The birthday spread.

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It’s easy to see that turning twenty-one has really brought a new level of maturity to Nathan.

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The party consisted of table tennis and some Frisbee football. . .

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. . . as well as a birthday cake that was actually a cheese cake. (Which Nate loves!)

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To quote from a song we wrote for him for his baby dedication he’s the “son of our love, son our joy, child of our heart.”

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Welcome to adulthood, son. We’re more proud of you than we could ever say.