Tuesday, January 11, 2011


This morning, I did a scary thing.

I went to a new gym. For the first time. All by myself.

Now if you’re an extroverted people person, going alone to a new place where you have to look foolish, sweat, and do excruciating things to your body may not even cause you to, er, break a sweat.

But for me? Little ol’ me? Shy, introverted me?

It was a wee bit scary.

However. Everything went fine. I didn’t break any machines or fall over in a faint after twenty minutes on the treadmill. (Which was set to minus 4 miles per hour, by the way.) Bet you didn’t know it was possible for a tread mill to go that slowly, did you? Hang around me and you’ll learn all sorts of important life lessons.

I wore my old and ratty work out clothes from when I used to go to the gym in Smithfield and you’ll never guess what has happened! Those togs have, um, shrunk just a little. Isn’t it amazing how an item of clothing can hang in your closet for a while and without anything at all being done to it, it can shrink? Hmmm. I think I might need to write a letter of complaint to the manufacturer.

Or not.


After a year of breast cancer-fighting, a double mastectomy, follow up surgeries, and reconstruction topped by TWO months of happy Thanksgiving and Christmas eating, well, let’s just say that all my clothes seem to have shrunk. (Are we seeing a pattern here?)

I do want to mention one thing about exercising that may sound a little bit like whining—and maybe it is whining. Regardless, it would be be really easy for me to write off exercising altogether with the very valid-sounding excuse of, “Well, I can’t exercise. I have COPD.” (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.)

In fact, since going through three surgeries last year, my COPD seems to have gotten even worse. Earlier in the year, I was blowing 350 on a peak flow meter but in recent months, I can only blow 300. And guess what little happy fact I also found out? My lung function is way worse than a 75-year old woman, as evidenced by this chart. (I’m 67 inches tall and 48 years old.)

peak flow chart

But I digress.

COPD can definitely be a downer when it comes to starting or maintaining an exercise program. Believe me I know. And believe me, I have whined about it once or twice. (Or possibly even thrice.)

But as it turns out? Whining is not considered to be a cardiovascular activity. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t done a whole lot for my lung capacity. And so it seems as though I will have to take my pitiful little ol’ lungs to the gym and work them as much as possible if I want to gain any cardiovascular benefit. While my lung damage cannot be reversed (at least that’s what my doctors tell me), it certainly can’t hurt to give them a little workout.

And so I am working! Workin’ my (feeble) lungs. Workin’ my (flappy) legs. Workin’ my (floppy) arms. Workin’ my (fluppy) behind. (Never heard of a fluppy behind? Believe me. They exist. I own one.)

I have also sworn off desserts for a few weeks which really and truly hurts my heart to even have to write those words. But hey. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And since (last time I looked) we don’t have $2,000 tucked away in our savings account earmarked, “Funds to purchase Becky an entire new wardrobe in an entire new size,” I guess I’d better take action--flappy, floppy, fluppy action. It ain’t gonna be pretty. Trust me on that.

So that’s my scary news of the day.

In other news, some of you who rejoiced (with exceeding great joy) with me when I got my new camera are probably wondering, “So is Becky taking any pictures already? Has she learned to get the new camera out of the point and shoot mode? Is she ever going to post any of her photographic works of art for us to behold and gaze uponst?”

Well, the answers to those questions would be yes, sort of, and yes (except they aren’t quite works of art).

I have gotten brave a time or two in recent days and have actually turned the little dial to something other than “auto.” And that was very exciting! Plus, I have spent at least half a dozen hours poring over the “Nikon D5000 for Dummies” book that my wondrously thoughtful son gave me for Christmas.

As my brain has pondered all the mysterious information about aperture, shutter speed, focal length and f-stops, I have come to a very scary conclusion. I have come to the conclusion that photography is a lot about math! (And you all know how much I adore math!)

As a case in point, here is a brief description of f-stops from Wikipedia:

The f-number (sometimes called focal ratio, f-ratio, f-stop, or relative aperture) expresses the diameter of the entrance pupil in terms of the focal length of the lens; in simpler terms, the f-number is the focal length divided by the "effective" aperture diameter. It is a dimensionless number that is a quantitative measure of lens speed, an important concept in photography.

You know what I really, really love about that paragraph? I love the fact that the line that starts out with “in simpler terms,” finishes by including the words, “focal length divided by the effected aperture diameter.”

They’re kidding right? Surely someone made a mistake along the way and what they really meant to write was, “In more complicated terms.”

And then to make matters even worse, my photography book has the nerve to throw around stuff like “f/1.4 and F/2 and f/5.6.” Then it goes on to tell me that all those scary numbers are somehow related to each other and have a huge impact on how my pictures will turn out.

Does this not look like math to you?

However. I am happy to report that despite all the scary, number-related reading I have done, my thick little brain is starting to make a little sense of it. I am thoroughly enjoying the process of learning and especially the feeling I get when all of a sudden something that has hitherto been murky, suddenly makes sense.

It’s a hallelujah moment, believe me.

At any rate, here are a couple pictures I took yesterday. I can’t really say that I knew what I was doing, but I did have enormous fun doing it. (Whatever it was.)

_DSC0068 _DSC0070



Let me just close by saying that if your day holds anything scary, I hope that you will just think fondly of me and my scary gym and my scary photography books and be greatly inspired.

Or if not greatly inspired, at least mildly entertained.

(Hey, we have to take what we can get.)

12 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

CJ said...

Ive written on my distaste for the f/stop number before :) Its very intimidating, but needed - Im finding out :) Sounds like youve got it figured out - and does it get much better than "In simpler terms?" Great pictures, btw, they look like something out of a travel magazine, so pretty!!

Anonymous said...

After reading your post, I thought you'd like to hear about an experience I had a few days ago...

We recently purchased a Nintendo Wii with the Wii Fit game. It comes with the little board and you can exercise on it. I was all excited and ready to go. To set up the program, it has to weigh you and take some little tests....then it proceeded to tell me I'm overweight and my little on-screen character got all pudgy! Talk about discouraging. This program was supposed to motivate me...not make me want to throw it out the window!!!!

After I got over the frustration and tried out a few of the games and exercises, I really did start to enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone with a Wii.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you, love,


Guerrina said...

The "Dummies" explanation made my eyes cross! Who writes those things?

Your pictures are great! Sometimes just following the directions even when they don't make sense clarifies things. Experiment to your heart's content! There's no fees to develop the film with a digital!

Hang in with the exercise...bodies really do like it! Hey! I shovelled 13" of snow over the course of this past weekend and we're getting another 12-18 inches tonight through tomorrow! AND I HAVE A 75 FOOT DRIVEWAY! My body loved every minute of it...yep...uh-huh...I'm calling my cousin with a plow this time!

Anonymous said...

One thing I always have been wondering about Becky, what is the thing which make a bone marrow transplanet so dangerous? I remember reading some of the old posts from that time in 2003 and one of then said that before you went toDuke for Sarah to have the transplanet then you had been thinking about if she(sarah) would survive . But I still do not understand what it makes so risky?

Anonymous said...

Hiya, Becky!

When it comes to f-stops, this is what I've always "chanted" to myself as I set up my camera for a shot:

"The bigger the number, the smaller the opening" - it helps! Or at least - it helps me. :)

Stefanie in St. Louis

Anonymous said...

Great pictures...makes me want to learn more about photography, but I'm a very impatient person. Point and shoot works best for me...sometimes:) I'll get back to you soon on my pet picture experiment.

Cindy in VA

Bec Mitchell said...

I turned my DSLR off the auto button a year ago and have never turned back, the more you use it the easier it becomes.. I am HOPLESS at Math and truly for me I never use it, I have just become familiar with how to let more light in and how to make sure the photo isn't overexposed etc. etc.

The first photo is just beautiful!! You have a good 'eye'.

karen in hammond said...

Tomorrow when I'm at work, I will look up the names of the books that were recommended to me by someone who takes wonderful photos. They're writte in layman's terms for us folks who hate math.

simplykristi said...

I have not shot in auto in over three years. I recommend getting Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure." You can get the third edition for $15 at Amazon. Perhaps your local library has a copy.

Kristi near KCMO

Anonymous said...

Becky - I, too, love photography and was intimidated by learning to use the manual settings rather than "auto". However, some wise photographer told me to take many "practice" photos...taking several photos of the same thing using different settings and to carry along a notebook, and mark down the settings used for each photo. Then look at the best photos and see what settings I used and I would be able to learn from my own work. I am not sure if I am explaining this clearly or not, but it did help me learn and hopefully it will help you as well. And, since we are no longer using film, we aren't using up film for nothing (we can always trash the bad photos). Good luck with the new camera and hugs to my favorite Smith family!
Linda in Pittsburgh

Karen C said...

Hey Becky ... at the gym, maybe mix in some free weights to your workout and maybe it won't be as hard on your lungs.

I'm your age, and I'm trying my "bestest" to learn to love them (although, I'd much rather run), since all my health books and shows highly recommend strength training even more than cardio. The good thing is that although it doesn't burn as many calories right away, it does have a longer time frame for keeping your metabolism up. The way I like to look at it is I have much larger time frame in which to eat my chocolate!