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

Quiet Days

Quiet Days

It’s been a month of MS fatigue and quiet living. I’ve ridden my scooter a few times to the lake in our neighborhood and enjoyed the dragonflies and flowers always present. Here are a few of my favorites.

One of these days I’ll write more. 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

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!

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

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.

The Blahs

I’ve got a case of The Blahs, not to be confused with The Blues – which I don’t have.

MS has been busy fatiguing me of late without allowing me to pursue much sewing or exploring around to enjoy photo taking. The weather has turned cooler so most of my bird watching has been through the windows instead of on the back patio. I did get a few snaps with my phone of the cats doing cute things. Well, they’re cute to me, anyway.

This doesn’t happen very often so it was worth documenting.
Pip’s position and back legs up in the air crack me up 😹!

After a long 35 year battle with breast cancer, my stepmother passed away a couple of weeks ago. She had suffered so much that it was a blessing to know her pain was over and she had gone to her heavenly reward. Of course, my sister and her family came up from Texas for a few days in two consecutive weeks. They got to say “goodbye” the first week and were here for the funeral later the following week.

My nephew and Pip are good friends.
This kid is so talented!
Puppy K.C. came up the first week. She’s a hoot!
Doing 9th grade online while they were here the 2nd time.
My Dad always gets his Model-Ts out when my nephew is here.
My sister brought some hot chocolate bombs for the kids to try out. The verdict was unanimous – 😋!
My angelic niece savored every drop.
My nephew in his Halloween finery.
Covid made Halloween kinda different this year.
A vampire angel. 😂
Lollipop lips. 😂
I did get this sweet finch one sunny afternoon a few weeks ago.

I’ve been putting a lot of puzzles together while listening to Charles Dickens novels. So far, Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities (both of which made me cry) have been my favorites. I just finished Great Expectations and am only three hours (out of 23) into The Old Curiosity Shop. I have A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Pickwick Papers waiting in the wings. I’ve read some of these before but am enjoying how they sound as audiobooks with wonderful readers speaking life into the characters as they do all the different voices.

(American) Thanksgiving will be a much smaller affair than usual but we’re looking forward to seeing my Dad and my step-sister’s family. In the true spirit of the holiday, they are each bring a couple of dishes while hubby and I do the rest. Despite all the troubles in the world around us, we have so many blessings for which to give thanks. I hope you find many blessings to be thankful for too.

God be with you. ❤️ Amy