Friday, January 14, 2011

Snowy. And The Chair. And The Tongue Test.

Hi. Snowy here.

It has occurred to me that some of you may think that since I help Mom a lot with her blog writing, I am not open to lending my capably impressive assistance to the other male guy in our house. And so today I have decided it would behoove me to present a couple pictures to you as irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

Shall we begin?

Here are Dad and me working together on the family budget. As a rule I do most of the thinking and he does most of the typing so we make a really good team. (You know, sometimes I really just wonder how this family ever got along without me back in the day.)


It was pretty fun hanging out with Dad. He’s not quite as “cushy” as Mom is but hey, no one’s perfect! I just sat right there right beside him and whenever he needed any advice he’d just consult me because, as we all know, I am an informational whiz from way back. (Since I’m on Mom’s Blog Payroll, and everything.)

And just in case you don’t know this little Thinking Secret? I’ve found that it helps to tilt one’s head back and raise the nose just slightly when doing serious thinking. It tends to allow the massive stores of knowledge and wisdom that are resident in one’s brain to have more freedom of movement as they roll around the cranial cavity.

You can thank me later.


So. All was well. And good. Not to mention great.

But then? What’s this? Where did he go? The Big Guy disappeared! He left me!

As I stared forlornly after his departing figure I wondered, “Doesn’t he understand that the very essence of my canine being is encapsulated in the moments of time when I can offer my able mental assistance and stellar, exemplary advice to all members of the human race who are in need of said input and insights?”

(Um. Does anyone know what I just said?)


Sigh. Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned in my eleven years of life it’s that when life hands you lemons you, um, sit in a chair and stare out the window. _DSC0014

And after you have stared out the window for a sufficient amount of time, you should then stare downward just a little so as to appear pensive and intellectual in order to impress Mom with said pensiveness. (And may I just say? It doesn’t take a whole lot to impress Mom so a little staring straight ahead goes a long way.)


But then? After a while? I started to get a little lonesome. Not to mention bored. Not to mention completely overwhelmed by the buzz of ideas that were whizzing around in my (small) brain, ideas which desperately needed a Human Type Person to impart them to.

Before I knew it, dismal distress and distressing dismay had descended upon my tiny heart.


What’s a guy to do, I ask you? What’s ahead for me? Where is my life headed? Am I being downsized? Outsourced? Am I no longer needed by The Smith Humans? Are my writing/consulting days over?

These are hard questions to face in the sunset years of one’s life.


But then?

I finally got sick (not to mention tired) of being all morose and melancholy and I quite sternly issued myself the following orders, “Get a grip! Life isn’t over! Your humans still need you! Think positive! Buck up! Take deep cleansing breaths! And above all else? SING! Sing your cares away!”


And when you’re done with verse one, then by George, move onto verse two! Sing until you can sing no longer! Let your soul soar on the wings of song! Raise your voice to the sky!


Whew! Wow! That whole singing thing turned out to be a lot of fun. And it also helped to dispel that dratted dismal dismay down in my heart. However. I still had the challenge of entertaining myself since no Human Type Person appeared to be returning to the Snowy Chair.

Let’s see. Hmmmm. What to do, what to do. . .

Oh, I know! I’ve got it! I should do a little little experiment to find out just how long my tongue really is! This is something I’ve been wondering about since I was just a wee lad, er, pup and it appears to be the perfect time to do engage in a bit of empirical scientific research.

So . . . let’s see.

Whoa! Pretty long, huh?


WHOA!! Really, really long!

You know what? This is truly impressive! I think someone should contact the White House so that I can be hereby lauded as the Canine Tongue King! I ROCK!


Did I just say that out loud?


Sigh. I’m so bored.


You know, I seem to recall that some wiser Dog than I once said, “If Human Type Persons do not come and sit with you after 12.5 minutes of waiting, then you should go find something fabulous and fulfilling to do elsewhere.” (Or something like that.)

So. I guess that’s what I’ll have to do. However, first I need to give myself a little shake to get my fur arranged back into its usual attractive style. All that thinking, singing and tongue analyzing can certainly wreak havoc with one’s appearance.


And then?


Then I’m outa here!


This is Snowy. Signing off.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Andy. Thrift Store. Windmill.

Yesterday I took a slightly chilly, fairly enjoyable, mid afternoon, mid winter walk.

I’d much rather ride my bike than walk but when it’s 30 degrees outside, the wind whipping past one’s face on a bike makes the experience a little less than ideal. And so I walked.

In Manteo, the main road (Hwy 64) bisects the north end of the island; it passes by a few restaurants and businesses and then when it gets near our neighborhood, the businesses give way to mostly residences and the scenery becomes rather lovely.

As I trundled merrily along the lovely bike path that runs parallel to the road, I made myself a new friend.

His name is, um, Horse.

Horse looked at me, put one hoof up on a board and started tapping it over and over. I’m not sure if that meant he was counting (like Mr. Ed) or if it was some sort of Horse Language that basically meant, “Hey there, Lady! You got any carrots for me?”


I think horses are incredibly magnificent, amazing, beautiful creatures but I was still not quite willing to go over and pat him on the nose. Or the forefront of his head. Or whatever that place is called that people are prone to pat. (Can’t you tell that I am incredibly educated on this subject?)

I just decided I should keep my distance since I didn’t know if my good friend, Horse, was of the nipping variety or not. And my plans for the day most certainly did not include any sort of Horse Nipping Encounters.

So I bid my new friend a cheerful good-bye and left him to ponder who the strange woman was with the silver box in her hand. (Can’t you tell that this animal is truly in Pondering Mode?)


After my meet-n-greet with Horse, I spotted Mister and Missus Cow. Or maybe it was Missus and Missus Cow. I’m not sure if Mister Cows are kept out in the same field as the Missus Cows, or if they hang out in a separate place specifically designated for Mister Cows. (Yes, another subject about which I am abysmally ignorant.)

But at any rate, there they were. Two cows (of indeterminate gender) who were nice enough to pose themselves beautifully between the tree, um, trunks? Limbs? Thingies? (Have we found yet another subject of which I am ignorant? Yes. It would appear so.)


As I continued along my way, I thought about the advice that fitness experts are wont to give concerning the necessity of swinging one’s arms vigorously while one is walking. Unfortunately, I was unable to perform that particular maneuver because I had to use one of my hands to hold the front of my coat closed. That particular coat appears to be one of my clothing items that has mysteriously shrunk (shrank? shrinked? shranked?) over the last year and now it can’t be buttoned. Which means I have to hold it closed when the arctic wind swoops in and threatens my very personhood. Which also means that I can’t swing my arms and burn up extra calories so that the coat will fit better.

Which seems like a pretty unfair deal, all in all.

I then thought that I would take a picture of these . . . um . . .twig thingies. I just think that twig thingies look especially lovely when framed against the sky. In fact, if I were ever to make this picture into a Big Framed Art Display to be hung in the Smithellaneous Section of the Smithsonian, that’s exactly what I would entitle it.

“A Trio of Twig Thingies. Against The Sky.”

Doesn’t that title just speak to you? No?

Okay. Moving right along . . . IMG_2713

In this shot, I thought that the juxtapositioning of this barn-ish type building framed by the tree trunky thingies was rather attractive.


Then I came across this unusual looking contraption which unfortunately failed to allow itself to be neatly pigeon holed into any of my (woefully inadequate) descriptive phrases. And so I just stood and stared at it and pondered it, trying my utmost to look profound even as I pondered.

The word on the street seems to be that this is an old windmill that will be reconstructed on this site once the weather warms up.

I think it would be really great to live just up the street from a windmill. I mean, we already live less than a mile from Andy Griffith’s house. And we’re one block from a thrift store. To have a windmill in our neighborhood, too? Too cool.

Andy. Thrift Store. Windmill. Doesn’t get much better than that.

IMG_2745 IMG_2749 IMG_2751

Heading back the way I came, I spotted Horse again. He proceeded to studiously ignore me since obviously a woman who carries a silver box instead of a bag of carrots is of absolutely no use to him. Or her. (Sorry. Didn’t take the time to peer at the pertinent parts.)

IMG_2775 IMG_2777

And then I was on the home stretch and gazing upon things which make me happy every time I see them, things that I never dreamed could exist in this magnitude just five minutes from the ocean.


Tall, tall trees! How wondrous is that?



By about that time, my mid afternoon, mid winter walk had made my cheeks red, my nose run, and my legs wobbly. So I headed myself toward home where I was greeted by this sweet sight: a little doggy patiently waiting for a certain Mom to sit down with him so that they could get going on some blog writing. You’ve never seen a more faithful co-writer in your life.


Which brings me, in closing, to a brief Snowy Report.

Snowy is doing so well that we can hardly get over it. He’s gained all his weight back, is eating like a champ, running around the house like a perky puppy, inviting us to wrestle with him, playing happily with his favorite chew toy and basically acting happier and healthier than we have seen him in a long, long time.

And that makes this mama heart very, very joyful. Plus ecstatic.

The end.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Becky Smith’s Relatively Infallible Rules of Cleaning

Several of you, when commenting on various pictures I’ve posted in the past year, have said that you find our house to be quite neat and orderly.

Well, I guess I’d have to say that as a rule, our house does stay fairly neat.  Since I have a hard time functioning effectively in chaos, a semblance of neatness is a prerequisite for my happy state of mind.

However. That is not to say that at every moment of every day, every room is in perfect order.  Only in my dreams.

A case in point:


This is our home office in the wake of The Hurricane That Was Christmas which passed with a vengeance right through the middle of our home.   During that exceedingly busy season, I got to the (frantic) point where I was just flinging stuff left and right and then (because of my wild and wanton flinging) I was having to use precious seconds (and minutes) digging through the mess I had created in order to find the things I needed.  Not such a good plan.


And so a few days after all the Christmas excitement was over, I set aside an hour to try and put things back in order.  It really wasn’t too bad of a job once I got going and I also got to use a Becky Smith Moderately Infallible Rule of Cleaning (BSMIRC for short) which is this:  Never jump right into the middle of a mess.  Always start at one corner (or at one end) of the mess and work your way around the room.

It’s much less overwhelming to concentrate your energies on a teeny tiny area of disorder rather than a whole room full.  And after you concentrate on a foot or two at a time, over and over again, eventually you look up and the whole room is clean!

Amazing how that works!


And since I’m on the subject of cleaning, here’s one more thing that I firmly, forthwithly and also forthrightly believe.

Let’s say you have a house that is pretty much needing attention on all fronts.  (Like right after Christmas.  Like our house has been recently.)    My BSMIRC for this situation is this:  If you only have time to do a little bit of cleaning, start with an area that you’ll see as soon as you open your eyes in the morning.

I mean, think about it.  You can spend two hours out in the garage and get one corner of it sparklingly organized and looking like something out of a magazine.  But how does that lovely garage corner help you when you first open your eyes on Monday at 5:30 am?

Not so much.

However.  If you open your eyes one morning, glance over at your nightstand and see that it is clutter and dust free?  Well, that just sort of puts a spring in your step even before you get out of bed. (Which is actually sort of hard to have “springy steps” while still in bed but work with me here.)

And then let’s say you walk over to your sock drawer to start the process of getting dressed and you see socks that are happily paired and (basically) arranged neatly--why, that spring in said step gets even, um, spring-ier!  

I won’t beat the subject to death because I think you probably get the point. I’ll just sum it up by saying that if you happen to come across a chunk of twenty minutes that you can devote to cleaning (and of course, after the regular cleaning—dishes, garbage, laundry—is done), think about the five areas you see first thing in the morning and start working on those area.  You just can’t imagine what a boost it will give you as your morning gets going.

Now having said all of that, I must sadly, humbly and yes, even quite shame facedly admit to you that my own Personal Sock Drawer is currently in a state of the most hideous disarray.  In fact, yesterday when I was trying to get dressed in a hurry, I spent the better part of nineteen hours scrounging around trying to find two black socks that were (basically) the same thickness and style. 

And so I have actually (through this very blog post) inspired myself to work on my own Sock Drawer Chaos in the next fifteen minute chunk of free time I have. 

And that’s one more thing to mention as a BSMIRC.  Cleaning jobs don’t usually end up taking as long as we think they’re going to.  We tend to blow them way up in our heads and wail, “I’ll never get that sink scrubbed because I just don’t have the time.”

But if you think about it?  A good spate of sink scrubbing?  You could probably do it in three or four minutes.  (Unless of course, the sink happens to be in a house that has been shared by seven male college roommates for a year. In that case, you might want to pack a lunch.) 

And a sock drawer?  Most of us could whip even the most recalcitrant of sock drawers into shape in fifteen minutes.  Or less.

And then we could wake up the following morning and immediately experience a little Clean Sock Drawer Boost.  It’s free, it’s legal, it’s non fattening.

What’s not to love?

Comment Corner

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.”

How funny is that?  I can imagine that you would get a bit discouraged having a machine tell you you’re overweight.  I’m glad you persevered though and are enjoying the Wii.  I have heard so much about Wii fit and would love to try it; anything to make exercise more enjoyable is a great idea.

Good luck on getting into shape. Sounds like you’re doing well!

Stefanie said, “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, I shall have to try that.   It sure can’t hurt! :-)     (And thanks again to you and Mike for all the great advice you’ve given over the past couple of months.)

Trine said,  “One thing I always have been wondering about Becky, what is the thing which make a bone marrow transplant so dangerous? I remember reading some of the old posts from that time in 2003 and one of then said that before you went to Duke for Sarah to have the transplant then you had been thinking about if she(Sarah) would survive.  But I still do not understand what it makes so risky?”
Trine, always good to hear from you!   That’s a great question. I’m going to go ahead and move the question over to Sarah’s Spot and answer it there in the next couple of days since it will tie in so well with the recent transplant emphasis over there.
I’ll close with a few more views from my Official Outdoors Photo Shoot the other day.  I’m  having so much fun with my new camera!

  _DSC0055 _DSC0059 _DSC0084


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.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Sarah Celebration. A Hymnal Angel.

I’m on the road today traveling to my plastic surgeon for (hopefully) my last regular visit before the “every six month check up” schedule kicks in.  Hooray for the prospect of six month gaps between visits!

While I’m out and about today, please drop by Sarah's Spot to help us celebrate the Eight Year Anniversary of her bone marrow transplant. I cannot even begin to tell you what a huge (and happy) day this is for her and for our family.

In other happy news, Snowy continues to do fabulously and amaze us all with his recovery from a (should have been fatal) liver disease.

Lots to be thankful for and lots to celebrate on this Monday morning.

Oh, and one more thing before I close—here are a few pictures of an angel made from a hymnal that Steve’s mom gave me for Christmas.

Since I was raised on music from the hymnal and since Steve and I both love old hymns, this was just the perfect gift. 

IMG_2604 IMG_2601 IMG_2602