Friday, October 22, 2010

A Great Idea!

Thanks to all of you who have weighed in on the poll so far. (The poll can be found in the right column, just below the BlogHer ad.) It’s been so much fun seeing your responses.

I got a great suggestion today from a reader from England named Leece; she asked if I would ask where everyone is from. Since that’s sort of hard to do with the usual types of polls I post, why don’t we instead just have everyone just go to the comment area and give your city and state (if in the United States) or your region/country if outside the U.S.

There could be a Smithellaneous reader living within a few miles of you. You just never know!

So if you’d take a minute or two to leave your info, I’ll compile it all in a week or so and we’ll see which states (and countries) have the most readers.

(And by the way, when you leave a comment, I have it set up so that you don’t have to have an official account. Just write your comment in the box and then choose the “anonymous” option from the selections below. Although if you’d like to put your name at the end of your comment, that would be lovely, too!)

And one more thing. Since I’m always braggin’ about my little city, if you have an extra minute or two, go ahead and leave a little comment about what you like best about the place where you live. (Or maybe there are five or six things you like best—let’s hear them all!) This is your chance to be a Goodwill Ambassador!

And since a post just isn’t quite complete without a picture or two, here ya go.

I ran across a couple older pictures of Steve and me; this is from about 2003.

2004 A Feb 005

This is a couple years ago.


And this one?

Well, this one has been included so that you can see our family at its absolute finest. Don’t you just love it?

Family Shots for Newsletter 002

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Island Pros. And Cons. (Plus A Poll!)

The pros of living in Manteo are many and they’re obvious. They can be partially summed up in the pictures below, which I took on one of Steve’s and my recent outings. There are just lovely scenes everywhere!

IMG_8681 IMG_8684 IMG_8697 IMG_8705 IMG_8712 IMG_8716

And isn’t this such a charming chair? Since there were no giants currently sitting in it, Steve thought he’d hop on up there. He looks like The Really Tough Mayor of Manteo in that particular pose, doesn’t he?


Just over the bridge from Manteo (headed back to the mainland) is Mann’s Harbor. This is its Post Office. Is that cute, or what?


The Post Office even has in own bird house out front. (You can see part of the five-mile bridge in the background.)


I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again; we really love living here!

The drawbacks of being a Manteo-er are few; one of them is only apparent once you get diagnosed with a disease that requires treatment at a larger medical center than the town can offer.

I mentioned a few days ago my estimate that since my breast cancer diagnosis in March, I had traveled about 2500 miles going to and from Greenville for treatment.

Well, I was wrong! I went back and counted up every single visit and discovered that I’ve made the trip twenty-three times. (With a few more times to go.) At 250 miles per round trip, I have traveled just under six thousand miles getting treatment! (With a total cost of about $650 for gas, meals, and incidentals.)

But the best part of having to make that trip so often? It’s an easy, scenic, stress-free journey. And I always know that at the end of the day, I have Manteo to come home to.


And now, a poll!

This site averages around 1200 hits a day and I’m curious as to how those hits are “spread out.” For instance, I’d like to know how many of you stop by once a week, once a day, several times a day, etc.

The poll is in the right hand column and will take you about 4.6 seconds to complete. (Well, maybe 5.2 seconds if you’re really slow!)


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Rescue Squad And A Bladder Clock

I wrote this entry almost two years ago over on Sarah’s site. (That was back when her site was more about our whole family) I just ran across the piece again recently and even though the experience itself wasn’t funny, reading back over my telling of it did make me smile. And so maybe this will bring a smile to your day as well! (If nothing else, it will at least make you thankful that you can use the restroom any time you want. Small blessings!)

Jan. 30, 2008

Sunday afternoon I leaned over to pick up an empty water bottle and something bad, weird, and decidedly unhappy happened to my back. (I have a long, inglorious history of back problems.) I spent the rest of the day ingesting as many legal doses of Motrin as I could fit down my throat.

When I woke up Monday morning, my plan to get up and get ready for work came to a screeching halt when I swung my legs over the side of the bed and experienced terrible back spasms and pain . I did some major screaming and carrying on and collapsed back on the bed, trying desperately to locate a position that didn’t hurt. When Steve got home from taking Sarah to school, he found me whimpering and blubbering on the bed, telling him that I could not move, I was not going to move, and no one could make me move because moving hurt, dagnabit!

Although the back pain was bad enough, the more immediate issue facing me that was that I hadn’t used the restroom in twelve hours and I was starting to feel some definite tinges of desperation in that area. Steve was trying to figure out what to do with me, what to give me for pain meds, and how to get me out of the bed so that he could get me to the bathroom, to the emergency room and/or to the chiropractor.

I’m sure if I hadn’t been hurting so bad it would have been quite funny as Steve earnestly intoned, “Okay, Honey, scoot your rear end two inches to the left and move your shoulders a couple inches counterclockwise and then swing your legs toward me.” He was so wonderful and patient, but nothing either one of us did was working. Every time I moved at all beyond one certain semi-comfortable position, I was stabbed with spasms and pain.

And the bladder clock kept ticking.

After about an hour of these on-again, off-again contortionist maneuvers, after an hour of tears and trauma, we both came to the same conclusion: We could not solve this problem alone. Steve called Beth, a nurse friend from church, for advice. She said, “I would recommend you call the silent rescue team; that way you can get to the hospital without announcing to the whole neighborhood that there’s an ambulance outside your house.”

Well in my pain-befogged mind, I had it all figured out. My rescuers in shining armor were going to come in through the bedroom door and (after laughing hysterically at the sight of my make up-devoid visage and blender-in-a-hurricane hair) were going to take out their magical “happy needle” and give me a shot of something wonderful. At that point I was going to sail away on a peaceful, groovy journey to La-La Land while they removed me from my house.

But alas! That was not to be. There was no La La Land in my immediate future. In fact, there was a decided dearth of any form of La La Land-ness in my immediate future.

Instead, two burly guys marched up the steps and into my bedroom carrying a horrid looking metal contraption with straps. They set it down on the floor by the bed, looked me straight in the eye and one of them announced, “Honey, this is not going to be fun and I promise it’s gonna hurt, but we are going to have to pick you up off your bed and put you in this special chair so that we can get you down the stairs.”

Well, I started crying before they even touched me because I knew what I was in for. One of them locked his arms around my neck and shoulders, the other one grabbed my knees and legs and we took off, working seamlessly like a well-rehearsed team: they lifted and I screamed. (I’m sure they were most grateful for my inestimable contribution to the operation.)

Now back when Steve had put the call in to 911, he had told the dispatcher (and I’m sure this bit of news brought hearty chuckles and smirks to all involved) that not only was his wife having severe back pain but she was also desperate to go to the bathroom. And by this point, desperate was not anywhere near to being a strong enough a word to describe my pitiful state.

Once my two fellas and I had made our bumpy way to the bottom of the stairs and I had stopped screaming long enough for their ears to stop ringing, one of them said very politely, “Miss Becky, do you want to go to the bathroom now?”

I was incredulous. There had been no needle-abetted trips to La La Land. I’d endured a traumatizing yank out of my bed into a medieval-looking chair. I’d survived a terror-inducing trip down fifteen stairs. And now I was being asked if I would like to be placed on a toilet by two big ol’ Rescue Dudes?”

I think not.

Instead I scrunched my eyes shut and wailed like a 2-year old, “I wanna wait till we get to the hospital!”

We got out to the ambulance and I was moved from the chair to the gurney which, of course, produced even more ear-splitting howls on my part. I’m sure both guys were wishing they had brought their industrial strength earplugs along. They started me on oxygen since I was on the verge of hyperventilating—body shaking, teeth chattering,
bladder screaming. They also tried (twice) to start an IV in order to give me morphine but had no luck. By that time, my bladder had become fuller than full and I had became unhappier than unhappy.

Steve followed faithfully behind us in the car and then followed us into the ER where I was transferred to yet again to another bed. By this time, I was getting pretty close to the end of my (very short) rope. A few people came in to hook me up to stuff and ask me questions--I finally cut through all the blither and blather and yelled as delicately as I possibly could, “I
need a bed pan!” (I thought about adding “STAT” to my command, but thought it might be overkill.)

More pain ensued with getting the bedpan maneuvered into place (sorry if this is too much information) and after a few minutes of hopeful waiting, you’ll never guess what happened!

Nothing. At all. Whatsoever.

At this point, the nurse from our church came in, took one quick glance at the traumatic tableau and said, “We’re going to have to put in a catheter.”

Well, dontcha just know that
that news made me happier than I have ever been in my entire life. My body was already in such a hypersensitive state that if anyone even brushed my knee with their hand, I would jump ten feet in the air. And now they were talking about a catheter? I’m sure it was one of the more challenging jobs my little team had ever performed, but to their credit they persevered with great patience gentleness and were eventually successful.

My comment at that point? “Ahhhhh!!!”

Another nurse came in to ask Steve some questions and somewhere along the line she inquired, “Does Mrs. Smith smoke, drink or use illegal drugs?” Steve said, “Nope.” Then he waited a beat and added, “And she don’t cuss, neither.”

The nurse thought that was pretty funny. I even smirked (a very tiny smirk) in between my yells of “Ouch! Oh, I hurt! Ouch, ouch, ouch!” (For a person who loves words, I was certainly not being very articulate!)

The people who were working with me had tried several times to start an IV (using the tiniest needle size they had) and each time, the vein blew. When at last they succeeded, I experienced one of the happiest moments of my life. Going to the bathroom
and getting morphine all within five minutes—well, that was just about my closet brush with bliss ever.

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur from that point on: I recall mumbling some incoherent things to Steve and waving my arms around occasionally for absolutely no reason. Steve said the doctor came in to talk to me and I fell asleep right in the middle of answering one of his questions. (How rude!)

After about four hours of being observed to make sure the medicine was going to keep the pain under control (in addition to an uncomfortable, not-so-fun bout of dry heaves) they cleared me for discharge. My own personal
Sir Galahad was waiting with the car and we made the trip home to where my darling children and worried dog were all waiting for me. Steve went out and get my pain prescriptions filled, we ate a dinner that someone from the church had brought in and then, just for the fun of it, I started throwing up and running a fever. (Throwing up with a bad back? Not a good thing.)

By about 8:30, I was thoroughly medicated by half of the Wal Mart pharmacy, tenderly tended to by my family, and lovingly tucked into bed by my wonderful, considerate husband who had just spent his entire day off, lovingly and patiently ministering to his screaming, bladder-bulging, throwing up wife. He’s a good man!

Today has been a bit better; I’ve rested most of the day except for going to the chiropractor. The pain meds are keeping everything under control and someone else from the church brought dinner again for tonight so I am feeling well loved and well cared for.

And the best news of all?

I can go to the bathroom any ol’ time I want! Can life get any better?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recipes and Rambling: Easy Peasy Manicotti Bake (And VERY Brief Surgical Update)

(Note: I believe this recipe was sent to me by my Internet friend, Connie.)

Before I made this recipe, I had never in my whole life cooked with manicotti. And may I just say? It was a revelation! Really and truly. A real and true revelation. Of the most revelatory sort.

Because manicotti is really fun! It comes in a pert plastic package where each little manicotti-ette resides in its own little cordoned off living area.The manicotti aren’t all messy and mussed when they arrive in your kitchen---they are orderly! And neat! And impressive!

See? How fun is that?


Ahem. Enough of my carryings on. Let’s get down to business, shall we?

And what could possibly be more businesslike than a cold slab of ground meat. (In this case turkey.) One pound. In the pan. So brown it, already!


Except you might want to chop up some onion and add it during the Official Browning Process. (Do you see the manicotti noodles in the background? Aren’t they so cool? And orderly? And neat?)IMG_8100

Brown. Sizzle. Brown. Sizzle. Repeat.


Of course, we can’t possibly do a recipe for Smithellaneous without the expert aid and assistance of the Smithellaneous Mascot! Now can we?

While your meat and onion are browning (and sizzling), bring a pot of water to a boil so that you can cook the (cute and cool) manicotti. For seven minutes. According to the Cute and Cool Manicotti Official Package Directions.




Step back and enjoy the artful arc of steam as it rises from your sink and ascends into the heavens.


Step back and admire the not so beautiful stack of dirty dishes in the other side of the sink.


Step back and try not to step on ye olde Smithellaneous Mascot right under your feet.


Then. Grab your jar of spaghetti sauce and add it to the drained browned meat/onion mixture and bring it all to a boil. Notice the fun! festive! fabulous! manicotti in the background. (By the way, the only reason my spaghetti sauce is organic is because it was on sale; usually I don’t make an effort to use organic stuff.)


Spoon a little sauce/meat mixture in the bottom of the pan. (The original recipe didn’t say to do that but I thought it might help the noodles not stick. However, the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that “saucing” the pan first leaves one with less sauce available to go on TOP of the noodles. Which is not such a good thing. So maybe the solution would instead be to spray the pan with Pam instead of putting the sauce down, thereby leaving yourself with plenty of sauce on the upper side of the noodles instead of wasting part of the sauce on the lower noodle side and thereby cheating the upper noodle side of its full sauce potentiality.)

At any rate, let me know what you decide and what works best for you.


And now, comes The Most Fun Part. Lay out your cheese sticks and a piece of foil. (I have NO earthly idea why that salt shaker is sitting right there since I didn’t use salt in the entire recipe. One of life’s unsolved mysteries.)


Then. Lay out your fun! festive! fabulous! noodles. After doing that, note that there are more noodles than there are cheese sticks. Wring your hands momentarily over this dismaying mathematical discrepancy. Smite your forehead and cry, “Woe is me! Woe is this recipe! Woe! Woe! Woe!”

Then. Decide to cut the ends off of each stick and use several “ends” to stuff each of the leftover noodles. Pat yourself on the back for thinking of such a grand solution. (Or you can always just buy extra cheese!)

Either way, sit down and rest a little after doing all that thinking. And woe-ing. And ‘ciphering.


And now the most fun part of all. Putting the cheese into the fun! fabulous! noodles! Can this much fun possibly be legal?


Unfortunately, I had so many noodles that I was not able to lay them in the pan in an orderly fashion which sort of bummed me out a little bit. I mean, think about it. Manicotti live their entire lives in orderly plastic packages and then to have to spend their last pre-digested moments on earth in disorderly rows in a baking pan? What will that do to their poor little ol’ (fun! fabulous!) psyches? Does anyone know? (Please let me know if you have an answer to this.)


Okay. Regardless of the perturbed (and disturbed) manicotti psyches, it gives me great joy to tell you that the said reportedly perturbed and disturbed noodles are now going to be covered up with the meat sauce. So while the noodles still know they are in a state of disorder, at least the overall dish will still look nice from above. And that’s all that counts, right? Who cares what horrors are lurking under the spaghetti sauce?


After you apply the sauce to the manicotti, then it is time to freely fling some cheeses over the disordered noodles and the accompanying sauce. I happened to have a mix of white and yellow shredded cheese so I flung that with great abandon. I didn’t even measure it or ponder it—the free flinging of cheese is most therapeutic. Try it! it’s fun! It’s cheap entertainment!


Bake the manicotti at 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered.

Then take manicotti from the oven. Admire it. Sniff it. Smile at it. Sing to it! (Note: Please make sure there’s no one else in the house if you decide to sing to your manicotti.)


Put the disordered but decently covered manicotti on the table with an assortment of accompanying stuff—in this case (because it was still summer) watermelon, bread sticks, and Italian green beans.


Sit down at your place and bask in the cheers and applause of your family. If they do NOT cheer and applaud? Send them to their rooms.

Then eat. And enjoy. (While trying not to think of disturbed manicotti psyches.)


Easy Peasy Manicotti Bake

1 pkg manicotti noodles (14 per pack)

Chopped onion (to taste)

Pack of string cheese (quantity depends on how much cheese you decide to put in each noodle)

1 pound hamburger or ground turkey

Jar of spaghetti sauce

Cheddar cheese-shredded

Prepare noodles according to package directions.

Brown meat and onions in a pan.

Drain meat; add spaghetti sauce, mix, and bring to a boil.

Spoon a little spaghetti sauce in the bottom of pan. (Or skip this step and just spray the pan with Pam.)

Drain noodles; stuff with string cheese (I used 3/4 piece of cheese per noodle) Place in pan.

Cover noodles with meat/spaghetti sauce mixture.

Sprinkle with shredded cheddar. And some Parmesan, if you’d like.

Bake at 350 degrees covered with foil for 45 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes.


In other news, my visit with surgeon yesterday went great. The nurse removed some stitches and I was given permission to toss the Surgical Bra! Hurray!

I don’t have to go back for three weeks. Hurray again!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finally Feeling ateensyweensy Bit More Human. Plus Nathan News!

I’ve got to say that having three “put to sleep” surgeries in less than six months is not something I would recommend. This last one hit me a little harder than I was expecting and I have been slow to get back on my feet. I got home from surgery last Tuesday night and didn’t leave the house even one time until yesterday afternoon.

In the past day or two, I’ve finally been able to get off all pain meds except Aleve, and so I’m not feeling so sleepy all the time. Nor so wan. Nor so weak. Nor so wobbly.

Of course, if you have to be all wan, not to mention wobbly? It’s always nice to have someone to tuck in beside you who gives off bountiful beams of canine compassion.

IMG_0032 IMG_0028 IMG_0030

Later today I’ll head out to Greenville for a post op visit and then I really hope to be done with trips to Greenville for a while. I’ll have to add it up, but I know I’ve traveled over 2000 miles in the course of my travels to and from that lovely city for cancer treatment. (Maybe they’ll make me an honorary citizen.)

In other news, I’m happy to report that Nathan has finally found a second part-time job! He’ll start working today at the Chick-Fil-A near his school, which will be in addition to the 10-12 hours he’s working every week in the mail room at college.

And (drum roll, please) I was thinking he was only going to be home for a day or two at Thanksgiving but he called this morning and will be flying in the Saturday before Thanksgiving and staying for SIX days! Since he hasn’t been home since May, that makes me extra, extra happy.

And (another drum roll, please) Steve’s family is coming from Charlotte for Thanksgiving and (one more BIG drum roll, please), several members of MY family will be flying in from Wisconsin for a week!

A house full of people I love! Surgeries behind me! Cancer free! Sarah doing well! Happily settled in to our new house and town!

Very thankful, indeed.