Thursday, September 22, 2011

Doctor Report. Bed.

Just got back from Greenville at 8:30 pm since my appointment got delayed.  I am wiped out!

But happily there is good news to report.  The pulmonologist said that from everything he could discern from the extensive breathing tests done today, I am basically holding my own. There were a few areas where I have lost ground and a couple other areas where I gained ground so the overall result kind of averages out to "no change."   Which is better than "getting worse!"

I'll take what I can get and am extra thankful tonight that I am not coming home with a gloomy report.

And now?  Since I've been awake since 4 am and gone from the house for 12 hours, I am off to my wonderful, marvelous, comfy, cozy, heated mattress padded bed.


Today I go to Greenville for a doctor’s appointment, an appointment unrelated to my breast cancer journey of the last eighteen months.  Today I will be revisiting my other health concern: COPD. 

Although come to think of it, it seems as though the two conditions have become somewhat interrelated because ever since last summer’s three cancer surgeries, I have definitely lost lung capacity.  Before cancer, I could blow a 350 on my peak flow meter but since the surgeries, I have to work really hard to even get up to 300.   (Normal for a woman my age is about 600.)

I haven’t been to a pulmonologist in a year and a half so today they will run the full battery of pulmonary function tests before I meet with the pulmonologist to go over the results.  And frankly? I’m a bit worried about what I might hear. 

So.  That’s what’s going on.

A scary day of sorts, but on the bright side, any trip to Greenville also includes the thrift store/Chick-Fil-A stops so the day won’t be a complete wash; I firmly believe that any day that includes a thrift store is a good day indeed!

Last week, Mr. Nikon and I took a little jaunt to the downtown water front area right about dusk. Despite being almost carried away by flocks—not swarms--of mosquitos, it was a relaxing evening of picture capturing.









And one last thing before I go.  .  .

I promise I won’t mention this frequently, but a short ways down the right column of the blog is a little box called BlogHer Store.  (You can use the scroll bar on the right to see all the items.)   Every day, they feature nifty, top rated kitchen items, complete with insightful reviews from users.    I have an advertising agreement with BlogHer and receive 10% from any purchases made there.

As much as I would love to take the proceeds and put them straight into the Becky Smith Thrift Store Fund, I’m afraid that instead they have to go into the (boring but necessary) places like Pay the Doctor and Pay Nathan’s College Bills funds.

Here’s a sample of what you’ll find over there and may I just say that I am almost tempted to get this handy dandy item myself.  I get slightly stressed  when I make pasta because it turns out differently every time and I’m never quite sure how much water/pasta/salt/oil to use.  This seems to take the guesswork out of all of that—plus it’s for the microwave and it’s fast!


Fasta Pasta Pasta Cooker:

No waiting for a big pot of water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente perfection in the microwave! Saves time, energy and water. Use with spaghetti, fettuccini, macaroni, lasagna noodles, rotini and more! Features water level guides on the container which indicate the exact amount of water to add. There are measuring holes in the lid, to precisely determine exact serving sizes therefore eliminating guessing and unused pasta. The lid also functions as a colander for straining.

Conventional stove-top cooking requires approximately 20 minutes to boil water and approximately 10 minutes to cook pasta while stirring, sampling and stirring to determine when it’s done. Fasta Pasta™ cooks pasta in 15 minutes or less, depending on serving size, without cook intervention to stir, sample and stir. Fasta Pasta™ is great for making pasta salads, spaghetti, linguini, lasagna noodles, a variety of vegetables and more. Fast Pasta has also tested non-starch based pastas (soy) and they cook perfectly in Fasta Pasta™. Because the cooker’s environment is “engineered” it’s very precise and perfect for cooking soy, rice, corn, and wheat based pastas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: I Hope You Dance

One of the things that was important to Nathan and Meagan was that their reception be filled with Big Fun.  And for them, Big Fun meant dancing.

Now I realize that there are all kinds of dancing and to be honest, some of it I’m not crazy about.  But the dancing at their reception was basically

everyone hop up and down and fling your arms and stomp your
feet and turn around and slide to the left and slide to the right.
                               and repeat.

In other words, Arthur Murray was not invited. Which was a good thing.  Because I think there would have been too much fun for ol’ Art to handle.



That’s Meagan’s dad in the right corner. . .


. . . and Meagan’s mom in the blue dress. 



Of course, these two led the way in all the dancing and had just the best time.  They take fun wherever they go,



In fact, Meagan danced her shoes right off.


Frank and Meagan’s oldest sister, Kristen, definitely enjoyed themselves.


Nathan asked his grandma to dance which made them both happy.  (The blurry pictures stuck into today’s line up are ones I took; the good ones were taken by the official photographer.)


I’ve probably never mentioned this, but Steve’s dad, Ken, is a dance aficionado from way back.  There are few things Ken loves to do more than to dance and to sing.   He grabbed his lovely granddaughter and swung her around on a few tunes.



When Sarah’s wasn’t dancin’ with her grandpa, she was dancing with her dad.


There was many a sniffle in the room when these two danced.


And there was many a sniffle in my heart when these two danced--this lovely, romantic, sweet, married dance between two old friends who had been transformed into brand new spouses by promises and commitments spoken in front of God and the people who love them.



Picture note:   I know that you’d probably love to see more pictures from the ceremony but I have to wait until I get the actual CD of photos because they’re higher resolution than the ones I currently have access to.    Hopefully I’ll have them up by the next Wedding Wednesday!

Here’s a final (non-dancing) photo from today.  Don’t these faces just make you want to smile?


Thanks to everyone who has left a comment or taken the poll concerning my pictures/note cards question.  It’s been very insightful to hear your perspectives on the subject.

Also, the comments continue to come in on Steve’s post which have been fun to read.  And speaking of his post, I had included the guesses as to what he was doing in the funny photos and somehow left this guess out altogether—and it was one of my favorite guesses!  (Sorry for overlooking it, Mrs. Pam.)

She said, “Once upon a time Fashion Designer Steve, aka Jangling Joe the Judo Guy, decide to design a unique belt for his newly fashioned shorts. He quickly grabbed a mysterious black car repair object, gave a jarring Judo Yell, attempting to bend said object to waist size.”

I think she gets the aware for most creative guess.

And lastly, happy birthday to Jo Ann Campbell, the wonderful woman who gave birth to me 49 years ago.  Mom (and Dad) raised six kids with little money and lots of love and I consider myself a blessed woman to be be able to call this remarkable woman, “Mom.”

I love you, Mom.  Enjoy your day and I hope Ruth doesn’t make you chase too many chickens!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Manteo Morning. And A Poll.










Okay.  Those pictures were all taken on a recent Manteo morning. The following pictures are some of the same shots, expect I decided to put them into a more artsy context. 

Because here’s the deal.  I’ve been telling myself for quite a while that I should make note cards from some of my pictures. (And a few of you have also suggested that idea to me.)

At first I thought I would just take the original pictures and put them on cards but then I got to thinking that I could also play around with them a little for a different effect.
So my question to you is this:

If you went to a store to buy notecards and you saw some cards that were straight photos and others that were creatively altered (like the ones below) which would you be more likely to choose?   

I have put a poll in the right column for you to weigh in with your opinion.  I also added a third option which is for those of you who might buy from either category, depending on the occasion. 

Or instead of doing the poll, you can just leave your answer in the comments. 

(Note: These are just compilations I put together in a hurry to give you an idea of what I'm talking about; they're not necessarily the exact ones I would actually use.)

bike collage


simple life

earth and sky

So there you have it.   Please go vote!   I’ll even give you a little sticker saying, “I voted” when you’re done.
Or not.


Okay.  Do we all know what tomorrow is?  Then let’s say it together. 



Can’t wait to share more photos from the Meganate Wedding.
Steve had a great time reading all of your comments about his post yesterday.  I’m hoping the comments will encourage him to post a bit more frequently.

Along with the comments, one question also came in.

Judy said, “Tremendous job. What a sense of accomplishment you must feel. But I was just wondering---is it possible the power steering pump did not have to be replaced, but just that leaky, fluid spewing, pretzel shaped thing-a-ma-jig?”

Hi Judy,  Great question. The old pump was definitely worn and the old hose was weak. When the old hose blew the leak was many times worse than before the pump was replaced and the new leak was in a different location. Thanks for reading my stuff.   Steve

Monday, September 19, 2011

Steve: Today’s Special Guest Blogger

Last week, I posted this series of Scary Steve Shots.


I asked you to guess what you thought he was doing and we were very entertained by the following guesses:
  • Margie: Maybe that was a car stethoscope & he's going to check the hearts of the cars!
  • Jenna: As to what Steve is doing, I have no clue. My best guess is he was smiling brightly while posing for a photo  of him fixing your vehicle. Then, without warning a gigantic bee flew on his leg, terrorizing him and causing him to shriek out and contort his face- just as you snapped the photo!
  • Deb: My guess is that they are air conditioning hoses for the car. That of course would explain the face, he was warm! 
  • Ann: Have no clue as to what Steve is getting ready to do. I do know whatever it was he did it well and correctly!  
I tried to write a brief description of his Car Repair Process behind the wacky pictures but I got bogged down after the first word or two.  Car Repair Processes are not something I am well versed in.  I finally asked Steve to write a paragraph or two about the story behind the pictures and that paragraph or two turned into “a paragraph or twenty!”  He had fun writing it and I know you all will have fun reading it. 

    The story behind the pictures, written by the one and only Steve Smith.

For the past year or so, the power steering pump on our Oldsmobile had been undergoing a slow, painful and leaky death and so I had to constantly check to make sure that the reservoir stayed full of fluid. Despite my best efforts though, sometimes it still left us in in some sticky situations like when it ran dry with Becky 125 miles from home.  (She wrote about this in one of her entries called the The Peach Angel.)

At first, the thing had to be topped off every few weeks; as time went on, however, it had to be topped off every week and then every few days.  It also left us with tasteful, decorative puddles in our driveway.

I finally bit the bullet and ordered a rebuilt power steering pump and belt.  Once the parts arrived, I rented a pulley puller/installer tool and set to work.The most interesting part of the job was heating the pulley to 400 degrees on the grill so that it could be pressed onto the pump shaft with the tool. My mechanical mentor, a German emigrant, used to heat things like this in an old popcorn popper filled with engine oil.

Once the pulley, the unit and the belt were installed, I bled the air from the power steering lines by turning the steering wheel back and forth several times with the engine running. It was then I noticed a generous helping of brand new fluid on the driveway.  Grrr.  I double checked the tightness of the fittings and everything seemed fine; however, it was still leaking.

I asked Sarah to sit in the car and turn the steering wheel while I watched the pump do what pumps do.

Lo and behold, the fluid it didst sprayeth not when the wheel wast held steadily, but the moment that she turneth the wheel, the fluid it did doth verily sprayeth out in a voluminous fashion from the high pressure line right wherein the crimped metal fitting meeteth the reinforced rubber hose thingy. (Sorry.  I felt the urge to get a little Shakespearean for a moment.)

When the fluid started its geyser-like activity, I leapt back.  I shouted excitedly, “Aha!”  And then I told Sarah to turn off the engine.

I went and did some research online about replacing the high pressure power steering line and found a comment from a shade tree mechanic who had done the repair; he described the job as ridiculous, difficult and frustrating.

Greatly encouraged, I hastened with haste to the local parts place and ordered said high pressure line.  It had to be special ordered. 

Of course.

The next day when I picked up the part, I saw that its appearance resembled some sort of genetic mutation of a deep sea worm.  I thought, “Surely GM didn’t really intend to make it this way.”  Ridiculous indeed.  

I got home and jacked the car up and surveyed the situation.  Not good.

I took a break.

Looked at it again.  Thoughtfully this time. 

I took another break.

Then I took a nap.

Looked at it again and finally took the car off the ramps.  Beaten!
I told Becky that it was a difficult fix and that I just didn’t feel like messing with it. I called a local repair shop and found out that they were booked up for two weeks. 
I slept on it.

I got up the next day and said, “By gum, (does anyone know what that means?) I am not gonna let this thing beat me!” 

So I mapped out my “strategery” (thanks for that one, “W”)  and got to work.
The job began by running the car up on ramps again.   I found the right socket, fetched my breaker bar and located my beloved six foot piece of pipe.  I wheeled under the car on the creeper and accompanied by manly grunts, I used the breaker bar and pipe to break loose four large, tight, important looking bolts. 

After placing a large hydraulic jack under the engine/transmission cradle to support its weight, I began slowly loosening the bolts to the end of their travel.  The cradle descended slowly.   I lowered the jack further and the cradle didn’t budge; it all just hung there on the forward engine mounts and axels. 
Ah, elbow room.  I had a glorious 1.5 inches in which to reach the steering box and high pressure line.

First, I removed the three hose mounts and then loosened the pipe fittings to the steering box, almost giving myself a hernia. My left arm had to thread through the left hand wheel well to get proper leverage on the box end wrench, and my right hand had to get in beside the steering box through the 1.5 inch gap. 

I broke the fitting loose and the top end with its flex hose came down from the pump easily.  It was grimy to say the least.   About half of this line is aluminum custom bent pipe which has limited flexibility before it crimps or cracks.  So I began to thread the thing out of the frame, around the exhaust pipe, around the engine mount and heat shield with the goal of encouraging it to migrate into the right hand wheel well.  The pump is on the upper passenger side of the engine.  

The line starts down to the engine cradle, then travels toward the front of the car for about 15 inches and then does a U-turn and heads right back only to make a 90 degree turn so that it can weave its way through cradle and around various tightly fitted components.

It got stuck several times and once it was finally loose, it took over a half an hour to remove. As you can probably imagine, I was thinking unkind things about whichever GM engineer had designed this particular part.

As the old line came out, I made careful mental notes so that I could attempt to install the new one in reverse.

Yeah, right.

The new one, while identical to the old one in every way, simply could not be cajoled into cooperation.   It refused to go in the way the old one came out.  So I started with the easy part near the pump and worked my way to the hard part.

Got stuck.

Took a break.

Tried again with a little more success.

Took another break.

Prayed. . . really.

Got back to it and began to ever so gingerly bend the rigid part of the line by small increments.  While working with my left arm threaded through the left wheel well and then through the sub frame, my right arm was threaded through every available inch of space as I wiggled, wedged and wound the line through the labyrinth of American ingenuity.  At last, it was in position. 

Except that the slightly bent line was no longer in perfect alignment with the rack pinion unit coupling.  So once again, I grunted and groaned as I re-bent the line so that it would thread into the steering box by hand. 

When that first tread began to bite, I gave a huge sigh of relief.   Smiled a grimy grin. Got it tightened up with the box end, bolted the engine/transmission cradle (sub frame) back into place and torqued the bolts with the handy breaker bar and pipe.

After checking everything, I filled the pump reservoir and fired the engine.
Success. No leaks. Hallelujah!

  • Total time invested: Four hours.  (Pretty good considering that I didn’t use pneumatic tools or a hoist.)
  • Filth factor:  Every square inch of my person.
  • Sweat Excreted:  Gallons.
  • Mosquito bites: Numerous.
  • Knuckles busted: Two.
  • Swear words: None. (This does not include the temptation to utter them, which is a different matter entirely.)
  • Money saved: At least $200.
  • Opinion of the job:  Ridiculous. 
  • Award for perseverance: Priceless.