Breath In, Breath Out

Sometimes I’m really proud of myself for being able to keep the rhythm of breathing going, such is the joy of MS fatigue.

In my last post I said I would try to write something about my MS, so here it is. Whew, this summer has been a challenge! I have had a smattering of a few good days here and there and even a few strung together in sequence, but more often than not I’ve been under the thumb of pervasive, domineering MS lethargy. Nope, it’s not the kind of tired that needs a nap and sitting to rest for a spell doesn’t shift it at all. Like having a bone dry fuel tank, no matter how hard you try to go, you end up getting absolutely nowhere. The engine won’t start, the wheels won’t go anywhere, the brakes won’t compress, the electric windows won’t budge… technically it’s a car, but it’s good for nothing. I still look like Amy on the outside but there’s no juice to animate me. The electrical wires of my nerves are stripped and the signals my brain tries to send to make my body move either can’t or only partially get through. As a result, I don’t walk right, my hands don’t work the way they’re supposed to, my bladder doesn’t know if it’s holding or letting go, my thoughts struggle to be strung into words, and my balance is all over the place making me stagger around like I’m drunk. Normal things like showering, getting dressed, eating, and even sitting up use inordinate amounts of energy because my nervous system is having to work 1,000 times harder than yours just to get the signals through. Some days, for some inexplicable reason, I spontaneously recharge fairly quickly and I get to do things other than basic human functions – these are my good days. Other days, most days if I’m honest, time passes from my favorite chair or lying in bed. I read, listen to audiobooks, put puzzles together on an app, watch TV, and snuggle with our cats.

MS and heat don’t mix, it makes all symptoms worsen, so I haven’t been on the patio taking pictures much the past few weeks. However, the past couple of days have been milder allowing me to snap a few pics of my feathered friends.

I’ve learned to love bluejays and all the sounds they make.
Matchy, matchy red!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, cardinals are one of the most beautiful birds of all!
Male downy woodpecker
Female house finch
Sweet lil’chickadee
Mourning doves are another personal fav.
The butterfly bushes we planted in the spring have more than doubled in size and smell wonderful!
There have been 5-10 hummingbird moths around the butterfly bushes all summer.
Oh, and the skippers love them too.
Hubby has just a couple more days before he heads back to work. This chore has been on his list and he’s glad to have it done. It’s still hard to believe God has blessed me with such a perfect guy ❣️

May God be with you! ❤️, Amy

Under the Birches

Hello!  The weather has been beautiful the last couple of days so I’ve been soaking up the unseasonal coolness by bird watching on the patio.

I got a couple of new feeders, they work a treat!
Yarrow
Verbena
American Goldfinch, male
Can you see the 💛?
This female cardinal is a looker!
American Robin
I think this pair of House Wrens is moving in!
He’s been singing all afternoon 🎶
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
I’ve named this little Chipping Sparrow “Chippy”, he is particularly friendly and let’s me get close to him.
I’ve been learning how to get action shots. This one didn’t turn out too badly.
This one isn’t bad either.
Blue Jays are very skittish but I can occasionally get a good portrait shot.
This is just a funny pic of Pip riding around the house with me while I’m on my scooter. I haven’t written much about my MS lately. Maybe I’ll do that some time soon. The abbreviated version is, yep, I still have it.

I hope you have a wonderful week. God be with you! ❤️, Amy

Rescinded and I’m Sorry

Have you ever done something that you look back on a bit further down the road and wonder just how you could have been so oblivious?  Well, I’m there.  I shot straight up at 4:38 this morning and thought, “Copyright!  I’ve broken copyright to Merrill C. Tenney’s The Genius of the Gospels“!  I was going to post the notes I took on John today, but instead I took down my previous posts on the first three Gospels.  Perhaps you were quicker on the uptake than I was. All I can say is I’m really sorry. It was such a good study, I got carried away and shared before thinking things through all the way.

So, back to the regularly scheduled programming…

My nephew came and stayed with us for a while last month. He made his Aunt very happy when he took my camera and, with his artistic eye, took pictures like a pro. Just look at his gallery!

Pretty impressive, eh?!

Here’s the young man himself.

Playing some Thin Lizzy with Uncle Todd.

The weather has been somewhat mild for our area this time of year so I’ve been able to get outside and take a few snaps. Heat and MS don’t mix so summer photo sessions are usually few and far between.

Common grackle
Titmouse
Female cardinal, almost fully adult (I think).
Juvenile female cardinal. Can you spot the differences between the adult in the picture above and this juvenile here?
I went to the lake yesterday for about 20 minutes before tiring out. It was super busy!
The fire department showed up with lights flashing for a water rescue.
Suiting up
In action!
This common whitetail dragonfly watched the rescue crew at work too.
AND, I got to see a purple martin being fed!
Meanwhile, inside, Pip has learned to appreciate birds as much as I do 😉.
Laudy, as ever, knows how to snuggle and relax better than anyone.

All my best to you and may God be with you! ❤️, Amy

May Marvels

Behold, May is about to close her shades while June prepares for her debut.

Laudy
Pip
There were bees everywhere among the foxglove at the lake park this past Wednesday, a sure sign that summer is nearly here.
Bergamot are a good spot for pollen.
A field of Queen Anne’s lace
🥱, kayaking is so relaxing.
There were several dozen purple martins in the boxes at the lake. Their eyes and beaks remind me of Muppets.

A little house wren decided to make a nest in one of our birdhouses to attract a mate. This tiny fellow wrote the book on hard work and perseverance.

This sweet little catbird came and stayed for a couple of days earlier in the month, a birding first for me.
Chickadee action shot.
Common grackle
White-breasted nuthatch
Downy woodpecker
Such a tiny little tongue this female cardinal has!
I never tire of seeing cardinals, they have got to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world.
This red-bellied woodpecker got his dinner by hook or crook.

This is the tail end of the post. May God be with you! ❤️, Amy

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

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