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 πŸ₯³.
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 πŸ’”.  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 (πŸ˜œπŸ˜‚). 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. πŸ™„

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 πŸ˜’.) 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 πŸ’œ!

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 πŸ˜‰. 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.Β  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!

Chocolates and Pelicans

The first week of December is in the books, and I can hardly wait for each new day to hurry up and get here. I got myself an “Oh, Nuts!” chocolate advent calendar to enjoy. Mmm, Mmm! Here are a few of my favorites so far!

I know many people put their trees up early this year, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My Mom always had us girls decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving. Somehow, now that she is gone, it makes her feel closer to follow familiar traditions. She gave me many of the ornaments, and I love the memories each of them brings back.

Hubby and I drove by the river near our house as we came home from grocery shopping this past Saturday and saw several American Pelicans floating around. I got home, grabbed my camera, and drove back as fast as I could hoping not to miss them. I needn’t have worried, they weren’t in any hurry. The fishing was apparently good because they snacked all afternoon. Wow, it was fun to watch them throw their heads down, bring up a fish, and watch it wiggle down their necks!

I sat and watched the pelicans for about an hour and started back along the walkway to my car when I heard a rustle in the bushes and trees. There were several bluebirds eating berries not five feet from me! I got as many shots as I could of them before the sound of my camera scared the group off, these were the best two images. It was just as exciting for me to see them as the pelicans.

I got in the car and drove just a bit further down the road to another access spot by the river and took a few more snaps before heading home. I was running out of energy and only stayed 10 minutes or so, but every second by a river is bliss to me and I’m not going to waste it.

I think these shots are proof positive that there is beauty in every season. As a matter of fact, there’s beauty in everything and in everyone, if you look for it. I am going to try to remember to look for the beautiful in the world around me. I’m especially reminded during the holiday season to be grateful God saw beauty and worth in His creation, enough so that He sent Christ to redeem us. God be with you! ❀️Amy

Worth It!

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and enjoyed a bit of down time. The weather here in The Ozarks has been mostly mild for the time of year and begged for a stroll around the lake near our house. It was a good MS day so I chanced hiking halfway up a short trail for a few photos.

The natural stone path was easier to climb up than down.
Stone wear.
I’ll have to remember to bring a lunch next time to enjoy the surrounding views.
There were several people fishing along the bank. I think Santa went incognito and took the afternoon off to drop a quick line πŸ˜‰.
Canadian Goose warming it’s beak.
There were several male Mallards clustered together along the shoreline and let me get awfully close.
There were also a few female Mallards waddling here and there.
It felt very mellow to see the remains of summer’s decay floating in and on the water.
The sky was full of migrating geese.

A few members of our family shared a cozy, delicious turkey dinner with all the fixings on Thanksgiving Day.

Waiting for the last bits of the turkey to arrive before digging in.
Our very own smoked turkey guru. Apple-sage πŸ˜‹
The kids enjoyed making all manner of things from pipe cleaners.

As the title suggests, the energy expended to hike and walk around the riverbank as well as to cook all the sides for Thanksgiving was worth it. They cost me a few days of serious rest and struggle walking, but I am incredibly grateful to still be able to do these things. So many people who have had MS for 30 years no longer have the choice of doing these seemingly mundane, everyday things. The blessing that I still can do them, no matter how many days I pay for it, is not lost on me.

I took the final three photos below over the last few days as I’ve been recovering. I am so happy the juncos are back for the winter, they are one of my favorites.

Though I hope to write again soon, I don’t want to miss the chance to wish you a very merry, festive Christmas season! ❀️Amy

An Unspoiled Autumnal Walk

This past Friday I got in the car and drove to an opening in the woods just down the road from our house.Β  Although the spot was less than a quarter mile away, and any other person would have walked, I drove in an effort to reserve as much energy as possible so I could do a bit of exploring.Β  With my trusty cane in my right hand and my camera around my neck, I entered the forest along a well-maintained track.Β  I’d never been to this area before, though I had been planning to check it out since noticing it after we moved earlier this year.Β  The first half of the pictures below are some of the things I discovered.Β  I wish I could share the smell and sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet; the birds calling and flying in the canopy above; the babbling of the small, mossy spring where dragonflies were sunning themselves; and the joyful feeling that I had stepped out of the real world and into a children’s fantasy book.

These wild turkeys were sunning themselves inside a cleared and fenced off, old, private, family cemetery.
I like to stroll through old cemeteries and imagine what kind of lives the inhabitants had.  They lived through the Civil War era and were loved and missed by someone.
I found this old plow laying in another clearing in the middle of the woods.  I wonder if it belonged to someone in the cemetery.
Though water from the mouth of the spring was definitely bubbling up from the rocks, it clearly wasn’t in any hurry to go anywhere.
I was lucky my shoe was the only thing that got wet.  Wobbly, unbalanced, cane-carrying walkers should not try to walk from rock to rock in order to discover the source of a spring!
Once out of the woods and heading back to the car parked along the road, I noticed this and the following lovelies basking and enjoying the last remaining fruits of the summer.
It was such a beautiful day that I drove to the river and walked on the bridge for a few minutes.
The only cloud in the sky reminded me of a leaping frog.
These guys allowed me to take not only their photo but also snaps of the drone they were figuring out. They were flying that thing absolutely everywhere!
I love the color of these berries. Honeysuckle berries, I think…?
A little family of turtles warming themselves.
Leaf detritus on the bridge.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy the changing seasons wherever you call home.

God be with you! ❀️, Amy

Nature Nurturing

We’ve seen the perfect blend of summery sun and rain here in Southwest Missouri this past week.  We’re usually roasting in nearly 100*F/38*C by this time in August, but we’ve had gorgeous 77-80*F/21-27*C days.   Thanks to the recent weather, nature is lush and bursting with color all over the place around us!  The forecast says it will only last another day or two, but it has been a delicious treat while it lasts and a balm for these many months during Covid-19.

A large forested area lies both north and south of our neighborhood with a good sized river about a mile down the road. It has both a well-maintained river access spot and, a little further down the road, an old, reallocated bridge that serves as the entrance for a greenways trail that winds through and circles our city. Additionally, our neighborhood has a little landscaped lake with a walking path, bridge, water feature, bird houses, and a bench along the shore. On Wednesday of this last week MS kindly lent me a decent enough day that I drove to the river in the morning and spent some time soaking in the views from the bridge at the trail’s head. After lunch, I headed off for a lovely, cane-assisted stroll around the lake.  There were butterflies everywhere in both places! They somehow managed to lift my spirits on their tiny little wings and carry them about as they soared around and flitted and fluttered here and there. Similarly, as I rested a couple of times on my way around the lake in the afternoon, I found myself smiling as I tried to follow the dizzying courses of dozens of dragonflies going nowhere and everywhere at once. What funny little creatures! Oh, and don’t worry, there are plenty of bird and cat photos below too😻!

This past Friday was an exciting day when…my new camera arrived!!! As you peruse the photos below, see if you can guess which ones I took with my point-and-shoot and which ones were with my new DSLR. The new camera inspired me to branch out and find a new photo editing app to play around with. It’s pretty safe to say I have a lot to learn. As an example, I hadn’t been messing around with the camera for more than five minutes before I realized I needed to invest in a more versatile lens. Some lessons are pricey πŸ˜‰! No worries though, I am having fun and can’t wait to learn and grow my skills (and lens collection!). It was time for the upgrade because I needed another sit-down hobby to add to my arsenal of things to do when the MS monster has me lashed to the couch. 

Speaking of MS, my next Ocrevus infusion is at the end of this month. Let’s see, this will be my second full dose which means I’ve been on it for 18 months. For the first time since starting it I think I’m experiencing the “crap gap” I’ve heard other MSers describe just before their next dose. My already ridiculous fatigue intermixed with poor balance, endurance, gait, bladder issues, clumsiness, sluggish word finding, and occasional cog-fog have all ratcheted up to the next level over the last few days. I hope topping the tank with more O-juice knocks my symptoms back down to the previous notch.

Part I: Riparian and Lakeside Entertainment

I’m guessing it’s a northern crescent.
Common buckeye
Fiery skipper butterfly
Northern pearly-eyes
Brown-eyed Susans
Dewberries??
Blue dasher
House Finch before the rain.
House finch during the rain.
House finch after the rain.
Mourning Dove trying to stay dry.
Same dove after the rain.
Female house finch with Niger all over her beak; steady rain.
I NEVER pass up the opportunity to snap pics of this skittish Red-bellied woodpecker. BONUS: Carolina chickadee πŸ™‚
“Who said that?”
Suet on the tip of this chickadee’s beak.
Our resident nuthatch. This little thing fascinates me.
Carolina wren and female finch
My Laudy girl 😻
My Pipper boy 😻
He is Bee-A-U-tee-ful!
Her eyes! Her little whiskers!! Her white undercarriage (as hubby likes to call it)!!!
Her fur feels like crushed velvet and she insists on being held nearly all the time. What’s not to love?!
Not to be outdone, Pip is our resident lap and shoulder snuggler. He has the sweetest disposition and is an absolute riot to play fetch with. He has gorgeous golden eyes and perfectly preposterous ears!!
CRX waves to make anyone jealous.
There’s a reason hubby calls Pip “a tender little guy.” He gives the best snuggles and makes me smile.

Here we are at the end of another blog. I looked back and realized I have been posting weekly lately. I didn’t mean to, or not mean to, it just happened. Will there be another blog next week? Maybe, I guess we will both have to wait and see😁. Either way, I’m glad you stopped by for a look-see. May God be with you! Amy