A Bumpy Ride on the MS Bus

Hello, friends, it’s been a while.  I’ve tried to write a few times but my thoughts have been all over the place.  It’s hard to write intelligibly when you’re being jostled every which way riding at the back of the MS Bus over rough terrain.  I’ve had some smooth spots here and there but there have been plenty of pothole infested gravel roads that have caused the wheels to come completely off.

I think the worst day was when I had wandered out onto the patio to watch the birds and got stranded for close to three hours.  I was home alone and knew I was tired but misjudged the severity of it and entered a sort of locked-in state unable to move and get back into the house.  There were birds a plenty at the feeders that day to keep me company, as well as butterflies and bees visiting the then blooming lilac bushes.  However, as I rounded into the second hour, my bladder started to send a signal that became a blur of non-stop, unbearable …—…  It was a true cliffhanger!  Would my legs recover enough to get me inside before I lost control of my bladder?!?  I’m happy to report that thirty minutes later, at the end of my bladder’s tether, my legs kicked in and saved the day!

Per usual, I’ve been snapping a few pics of the birds around the house.  I was finally  able to put the feeders up again about two weeks ago with no signs of sick birdies.  I sure missed my little feathered friends!  A pair of house finches made their nest on the wreath on the front door.  Their brood of six have all made it so far, as you can see below.  Mom and Dad have been keeping the nest floor clean by putting the little nippers’ poo on the edges of the nest.  That will be fun to clean up 😝.

Here are a few of my favorites from the backyard.

Thanks to many of you, I am thrilled to report that I came in first among the local MS Walk fundraisers! From the bottom of my heart, I am truly grateful.

The ride is getting bumbier all of a sudden and I am going fuzzy again. I hope you are doing well and enjoying the beauties God has made all around you. ❤️, Amy

April Showers of Blessings

A carolina chickadee built a nest in one of our boxes for his lady love’s approval but, sadly for me, she chose another one of his offerings in the woods across the street.
Our skink is back! He’s been sunning himself a lot on the grill cover where he has been hanging out on warm, sunny days.
My sister got a cake for all of the April bdays in the family. Hubby wasn’t able to come down with us to celebrate his special day so we each ate an extra piece of cake in his honor 🥳.
I’ve always wanted to try bubble tea and now I can say I have. I don’t need to have that experience again 😝.
The chewy tapioca balls were… interesting. Fun fact: I bit my tongue off when I was in a car accident in 1987. Can you see any of the suture scars?

Thanks for following along to the end of this post. May you go with God!

Through My Lens

Tufted titmouse with a beak-ful.
It’s a purple finch!  It’s a purple finch!  It’s a purple finch!  Finally!!  We had a purple finch for a couple of days earlier in the week, the first time ever.  I thought we had one last year but I was wrong.  I wondered if I would be able to tell if one ever came, I had a hard time telling them apart from house finches looking at them in a book.  It was much easier to see the differences in person.  Purple finches are more raspberry colored than house finches and don’t have brown streaks down their belly, the red goes farther down their abdomen too, and they have more red on their backs. 
This gorgeous fella stayed for a good 20 minutes.
I took lots of pictures!
Heartbreaking 💔.  This little goldfinch had avian conjunctivitis causing her to go blind and slowly die.  She let me get within two feet of her for this picture. It’s easily spread at feeders between finches. I had to take the feeders down, sanitize them with 1/9 parts bleach to water, wash them with soapy water, and leave them down for a couple of weeks. I also raked up all the seed debris under the feeders and cleaned the area up. I am keeping a close eye on all the birds at the feeders now to make sure no one else has it. If you have feeders, please keep your eye out for the symptoms. I’ve included the link below for you to learn more. Feel free to contact me if you need more information. https://feederwatch.org/learn/house-finch-eye-disease/
Feeders down, getting ready to rake up the debris underneath.
We took care of my Dad’s dog for a couple of days this week while he was out of town. She’s a sweet pup. I circled her favorite toy, a pair of socks tied together.
With my feeders down I needed a bird fix. I went to the park at the lake near our house and sat watching the birds and geese. It was a bit cold but I found some flowers blooming!
Light reflecting off the water.

Today is March 20th, the first day of spring, and that means my Grandpa Frank would have been 129 years old today. Happy birthday, Grandpa ❤️!!

I hope you have a wonderful day and get out to enjoy a bit of nature wherever you are. God be with you! ❤️, Amy

Sunshine and Signs of Spring

It was 70*F this afternoon! I decided to lie on the grass and watch the clouds pass between the budding limbs of our river birch and the neighbor’s trees. The warm rays felt so good, I felt winter melting away!

The birds are getting used to me being outside again and have been coming closer. I wish I could describe the glorious yellow of the goldfinches sitting in the trees and visiting the feeders. I can’t stop taking photos of them. Their color reminds me of rich, farm fresh, creamy butter.

If you look closely, can you see the number 2 on this bird’s head or is it just my imagination??

Not to be outdone, the cardinals have been showy and coming to the yard a lot. It’s incredible that one bird can have so many shades of red. Some of their breast feathers seem shimmery, as if tipped with frost when the sun hits them just right.

Since taking up photography two years ago, I have tried to get a good picture of a carolina chickadee. Somehow their glimmering black eyes always manage to get lost and blend in with the strip of black feathers on their heads. Well, today I found success! I’m right well pleased with this picture.

Trees, shrubs, and flowers are coming alive and it won’t be long until hubby can add a bit of landscaping to the backyard. I can’t wait to get some flowers planted that will attract not only birds but butterflies too.

My only connection to the world beyond our front door. I’m homebound for a month after my Ocrevus infusion (see the previous post for more information).

Thanks for stopping by. May God be with you. ❤️, Amy

The Day After I Toothed My Brush

I was wiped out after 8 1/2 hours at the hospital getting my 4th Ocrevus infusion yesterday. The first three hours were spent waiting for the pharmacy to compound the drug and get it up to the unit for me to take. At a whopping $100,000 a pop they won’t start getting it ready until the nurses call and say they see the whites of my eyes.

Dangling an IV, waiting for the Ocrevus.

My head ached all afternoon and evening and I struggled to make sense. My favorite was when I told hubby I had “toothed my brush”and was ready for bed…at 8:30. I slept pretty good until about 4:40 this morning. – thanks, steroids I laid in bed daydreaming while snuggling Laudy and finally gave up and got out of bed around 5:40. I’d had three cups of coffee, eaten breakfast, read the news, showered, and was dressed all before I normally get up.

It’s been a long, slow day of flushing from the steroids and a still relentless headache as a side effect of the Ocrevus. It usually takes about 3-4 days to feel normal again. In the meantime, my arms are full of cats and there are plenty of birds at the feeders to entertain us.

The steroids are seeping out but the company is good.

I’ve pasted a link to my personal Walk MS page. Please consider making a donation, it would mean so much to me ☺️. I’m already a little more than halfway to meeting my $1000 goal. It’s way past time to find a cure! https://secure.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Walk/KSGWalkEvents?px=18236733&pg=personal&fr_id=31565

Thanks for stopping by. May God be with you! ❤️, Amy

A Hairy Situation

WARNING: The following is an extremely exaggerated, fanciful description of a much less exciting story. No one was injured in the actual exploit. Names are not used to protect the identity of those involved.

She opened the top drawer of her cabinet and paused thoughtfully. She ran her fingers over the neatly aligned collection of scissors of various sizes, thicknesses, brands, and purposes. Nothing there seemed quite right. Suddenly, I saw the flash of inspiration turn her usually dull, milky-garnet eyes into lustrous gems. She quickly closed the drawer, bent down, reached under the cabinet, and pulled out a large plastic case. I heard the release of two clasps as she opened it on the ground directly behind me. Strangely, I noticed a faint whiff of gasoline mix with the scent of hairspray, botanical shampoos, and foamy mousses.

With absolutely no warning and the simultaneous feeling of fight or flight that only true terror can create, the whine of a two-stroke, single engine weed eater filled the retail space. The din reverberated off the mirrors, tiled floor, and rows of adjustable metal chairs. A deafening “thunk-tunk, thunk-tunk, thunk-tunk” whirred into life and ramped up into a high pitched scream just over my right shoulder. It swiftly came closer until I felt the very hair on my neck begin to move. I could tell the length of trimmer string was too long and was flicking past the protective case, like the tongue of a cobra tasting the air. Instinctively, I pulled away from the droning sound and was nearly out of the chair when I heard the stylist’s voice filtering somewhere through the bedlam. “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing. I’ve done this hundreds of times and you’re going to love it!”.

Was she like a chainsaw artist and could sculpt ordinary hair into a beautiful pixie cut with this outrageously deadly tool? After all, I’d shown her a picture of what I wanted. Wasn’t that her license hanging right in front of me on the mirror saying she knew what she was doing?

It’s strange how much faith we put in a little slip of paper with an embossed seal. It gave me the courage to sit back down. As I felt the first chunk of hair whacked off, I squeezed my eyes as tightly as I could and hoped for the best. Thirty minutes passed and I was still alive when she told me she was done.

Because it was a really tired MS day and I didn’t want to be out any longer than absolutely necessary, I got a wet cut without having her blow out my hair and style it. I don’t know if she was trying to cover up the mess, but she showed the back of my hair to me through a small hand mirror. The little bit I saw looked pretty short but okay.

When I was about 10 years old I remember my Mom telling the stylist to cut my uber thick, long, blonde hair into something more manageable. Somehow the lady translated that into a female mullet. I cried uncontrollably until Mom took me back an hour later and had the stylist rid all traces of Liza Minnelli from my head. I haven’t felt like crying about my hair for 40 years. I tell that story because this is what I saw when I got a closer, fuller view in the mirror at home…

Disast-hair!!!

Obviously, I couldn’t leave it like that and I certainly wasn’t going to go back and let her take another whack at it (😜😂). Though I’ve trimmed up my own hair before, this was way beyond my skills. Besides, it’s hard to see what you’re doing through misty eyes. So, I ended up going to my Hubby’s barber. Though I had to wait my turn for two hours, he was able to get me in on the same day as the disast-hair and, well, see for yourself…

Aft-hair Hubby’s barber shaped it up.

Ahh, much better! Hey, local friends, do you have any recommendations for a good stylist who can handle short hair?

Photos from the last few weeks.

Southwest Missouri got a lot of snow last week, about 5-6 inches in our backyard.
All the snow had melted by the middle of this week. These are the last few water droplets draining from our gutters. Isn’t that a pretty piece of bark? It reminds me of a tunnel.

We have had some beautiful birds at the feeders this week. These are a few of my favorites.

White-throated Sparrow
Eastern Bluebird
American Goldfinch and Eastern Bluebird
A study in balance
I read that American Goldfinches weigh about the same as five teaspoons of granulated sugar.
Female Northern Cardinal
Male Northern Cardinal
Early in the week I added this corn holder to give the squirrels their own feeding spot. They still prefer to eat under the bird feeders. 🙄

I had a moderate amount of energy on Monday so I decided to squander it by going to the lake near our house. (And I do mean squander. I’m still recovering 😒.) Though it was still a bit cold, the sun was shining and it felt good to sit in it by the edge of the water. The lake was still frozen over but the ducks and geese didn’t seem to care.

There’s always one who doesn’t like to get in line.
Mallard pair
Just look at that patch of purple 💜!

I’ve been practicing using portrait mode with my camera this week. It’s impossible to take a bad picture of these two beauties 😻!

Laudy
Pip

I get the next dose of Ocrevus for my MS on Monday of this coming week. I have to wait three months after I get the infusion, but then I will FINALLY be able to get a Covid vaccine, Lord willing. I wish you health and happiness! ❤️, Amy

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend, from the comfort of our own living room, I joined bird enthusiasts from around the world to count species and track their populations in a group effort sponsored by The Audubon Society and led by The Cornell Lab. The app “eBird” made it easy-peasy as I watched birds come to our backyard feeders. There was a cool global map that lit up in real time as people from around the world turned in their lists. The most flashes were in North America, Europe, and Asia during the times I looked, but I saw some from Australia and South America too. I kept data from Friday through today, Monday. I saw the most birds Sunday with 15 different varieties and a total count of 42 individuals in about 45 minutes. I imagine the freezing temps and constant snow made for a larger than normal number of birds at our feeders. You can see a bit of the progression of the storm in the pictures below.

I had help counting on Friday morning which was a mildly icy day.
Our first visitor. I couldn’t turn anyone away in such nasty weather.
American Goldfinch
House Finch
I think we ended up with four individual Fox Sparrows. It was pretty exciting to see them since they’ve never been to the feeders before.
A flyover 😉. For any photographers out there, I went Manual this weekend for the first time ever. I played around and learned a lot by trial and error. That is, I made a million errors and it was very trying.
House Finch, female
By far the biggest number of birds at the feeders were White-throated Sparrows.
I spread a lot of sunflower seeds on the ground and many of the birds camped out there to eat during the day. Birds need lots of food when it is so cold.
Look at the sweet little Junco’s eye, frosty from the blowing snow 😢. The are two Northern Cardinals in the background braving the wind as well as a Sparrow.
A female Cardinal hunkered down.
I usually shoo away the European Starlings because they are aggressive and a non-native species, but I didn’t have the heart in the bitter weather this weekend. This little fella has his feathers all fluffed out and his beak in his wing in an effort to stay warm.
Although the lighting in this pic is not right, it does highlight the snow stuck on the Cardinal and shows the blizzard-like conditions.
This Junco is pecking through the snow in search of seeds.
This White-throated Sparrow dove into the snow and scratched out a spot to sit in.
Here he is all settled in and fluffed out.
Our feeders about 2:00 Monday afternoon. There’s about 3-4 inches of snow with more supposed to come in overnight and again Tuesday night. I’m glad we got birdseed last week!
The indispensable tools of the trade, my specs and trusty binoculars.

I plan to continue to keep track of the birds that visit us using the eBird app, it was fun. And, you know I will be taking more bird pics soon! Thanks for stopping by! ❤️Amy

Winter Walk By the Lake

One day back in mid-January I took a nearly mile-long walk by the lake near our house. There was a blisteringly cold wind that froze my fingers and stabbed my lungs with each breath, but made me feel very alive.  It didn’t matter because my legs were working that day and the call of nature was beckoning. Her voice is always so sweet and calming, it’s a delight to wander at her bidding.

Look how far I went!
I think this was the dried leaf of lily pad that had blown out of the lake. I saw several in the grass along the trail.
This is probably a squirrel’s nest.
Delicate but solid. Open, but empty of life. Waiting for the promise of Spring.
Cirrus clouds stretching across the blue.
Vertical concrete against horizontal metal.
I got a wide-angle lens for Christmas. Can you tell?
Vacant.
“Eight. Eight ducks.” ~ The Count of Sesame Street
I’ve been taking P.T. of late to work on my balance and walking. This Canadian Goose can stand on one leg MUCH longer than I can 😜.
I wasn’t the only one trying to stay warm.
Green, yellow, brown, white, black, orange… mallards are a symphony of color!

Doctor Day Dread

I don’t like “doctor day”.  I have one with my neurologist every six months, at least.  I had one today.  Although she is the best doctor I have ever had, has seen me through some really rough MS transition periods, and I like her as a person, I dread going to see her.  Though I live with MS and all the limitations it enforces daily, seeing a doctor specifically for the disease always brings the horribleness of it to the fore.

Firstly, I drove myself to the appointment, which required two days of vigilant rest in order to scrape enough energy together to do so safely.  I got home completely drained and, six hours later, I’m still sitting in the recliner exhausted.

My walking is worse so I get to go to physical therapy…again.  I’ve had P.T. several times over the last 30 years – something else to drive to.  It’s worth a shot though if they can help fix the hitch in my “get along”, causing pain in my hips and spasms in my legs.  I know I need to work on my balance and coordination, as well.

We discussed my bladder and the medicine change the urologist suggested – it’s always fun to talk about your bladder.  She said she wished there was something to do for the interminable, insufferable MS fatigue but it’s just part of it.  And, despite my trouble walking and the need for a cane, she said I’m lucky to still be able to walk after 30 years.  She said it’s likely due to the fact that I have dauntlessly exercised in some form or fashion nearly every day for the duration of my diagnosis.  Nearly all her other patients have moved to motorized wheelchairs this late in the game.

I’m going to get my next Ocrevus infusion the first of March, Lord willing.  My doctor told me to continue to stay away from people from now until four weeks after I get the medicine, after which it should be safe to get the Covid vaccine (if I can find one available).  As an aside, there was a lot of initial concern over whether Covid vaccines would be safe for people taking immunosuppressant MS drugs.  Thankfully, it has been deemed safe and, though they may blunt the full effect, they still seem to work their magic.

Seeing my neurologist is a reminder of all the fear and uncertainty that surrounds the future living with multiple sclerosis.  I wake up every day wondering what kind of day it will be.  Will I be able to walk?  Am I going to have enough energy to make lunch and dinner?  I try to take it one day at a time, and I usually succeed.  However, when I see the doctor I have to look back over the last six months or year and compare how I am now to how I was then.  The last several years, as the disease has slowly progressed, I see changes that are not pleasant to look at but over which I have no control. 

No one knows what the future holds, I know that.  It may or may not be as bad as I fear it could be.  I pray for a cure.  Realistically, I think they will have to figure out what causes it in the first place before there’s a cure.  It’s hard to win against an unknown, moving target.  So much more is known now than ever before and there are some solid theories about what triggers the onset and drives the progression of MS.  I hope I live to see the day when no one else dreads “doctor day” because of multiple sclerosis.

Taking a Break

I haven’t felt like writing for several weeks now. Although I’ve had numerous ideas and thoughts, none of them have inspired me to pour time into putting them together.

I know I will return to Amy’s Axons with some combination of words and pictures in the near future. Thank you for following my blog and always encouraging me to share a bit of myself in this little corner of cyberspace.

God be with you in this new year.

❤️, Amy