babblings…I’m feeling…

*lucky. So much Charley lovin’ going on in this house. After all the pain and loss this summer, I can’t begin to explain how blessed we feel to have Charley join our family. This dog. Oh my, this dog. He has the sweetest, most gentle essence about him. He is the best medicine I can imagine. And every day starts a bit brighter because of Charley. He awakes so happy and high on life that you just can’t help but feel better about life yourself. He is an absolute love. And I can’t even put into words how much of an understatement that is.

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*insightful. Ha! Yeah, that may be overstating it. But I have had a few things dawn on me recently. I’ve been in perhaps my most all-encompassing painful fibro flare to date. There is a weird balancing act that goes on with me and fibro, between refusing to give into it and yet accepting that I have to respect it. One thing that has dawned on me is that this seems to be the place I need for my mental wranglings. It’s just not something I feel comfortable talking to other people about directly. I’ve noticed that when people ask me how I’m feeling, I tend to sidestep. And another thing I’ve noticed is that I am so often apologizing because of fibro. Because of the things I just can’t seem to get done when in the grips of a bad flare up. Apologizing to people I love and care about for letting them down in myriad ways–from not returning emails and letters to not cooking the supper someone was really excited about.. Thing is, I’m blessed with the kindest, most understanding family and friends on earth–and they always find my apologies unnecessary. And I think it’s time I learn to let go of some of the guilt that comes with this chronic invisible illness.

*incredulous. Gray turned 15 yesterday! I am grateful every day that I get to be a part of this amazing kid’s life. Again with the understatement.

*weirded out. By the fact that I just can’t seem to make myself read lately. Since Dewey’s Read-a-thon a week and a half ago, the only reading I’ve done has been for homeschooling. Nothing that was just for fun. What I read for read-a-thon was awesome though! Loved all three books I read: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (though I think I’m in the minority of people who actually liked his Lost at Sea better), March Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (can’t wait for final book of this trilogy), and Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens (reminded me of how much I adore awesome middle grade fiction; seriously, I was smitten). Just remembering how much enjoyment I got from those books, makes me think that today is the day I need to pick up a new book–like maybe Hark! A Vagrant, before I have to return it to the library.

*numb. Over The Walking Dead. Not numb as in “I don’t care,” but numb as in “I care too much, and I’m not sure how much more I can take.” This season has been nothing short of brutal thus far.

*panicked. But amazingly calm about the panic. Which of course is completely contradictory. There’s no way I’m going to get all the gifts made for Christmas. It’s just not going to happen. *sigh* And still I don’t stop trying. I worked on Chris’ gift much of the last two days, and can’t believe how little progress two days looks like. On a side note, I binged on the entire first season of How to Get Away with Murder during those two days. I do believe Annalise Keating may be the. most. intriguing. character I’ve ever seen on a television show.

 

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so very Gray…

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So very Gray.

Gray very rarely allows us to take his picture anymore. Be it introversion, or social anxiety, or Aspergers. Or none of the above, and he just doesn’t like it.

It’s okay. As much as I miss having as many pictures of him as I do of Annie and Max, I respect his decision. And occasionally, if I ask with the promise that no one but our little family will see it, he’ll allow me to snap one or two.

But there are so many ways to capture Gray in photos, without him even being there. I was taking some laundry into his room, and this was on top of the little set of shelves near his drawing table. (There were actually even more sets of other brands of pens and markers, all laid out in rainbow fashion with these, but I couldn’t get in position to capture them all with the camera.)

I couldn’t help but smile.

So very Gray.

these days around here…

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THE GOOD: the end of the horrific heat wave…Max’s glasses arrived and he actually loves them enough to wear them…the library book sale…seeing Eva…Gray adapting extremely well to having a stricter school schedule…finding a new go-to recipe…the wonderful chill in the air in the mornings…

THE BAD: Gray’s troubles with studying…the goshdarn chipmunks eating our beautiful tomatoes…

THE UGLY: major fibro flare…the cost of Max’s school trip to DC in the spring…

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these days around here…

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THE GOOD: having all five of us together for several meals…the beautifully clean kitchen floor thanks to Rich’s hands-and-knees scrubbing…Gray trying really hard in a nightmare-for-him situation…Flapjack…Gray’s awesome attitude to the start of the school year…Annie finding that she should have a fairly regular work schedule once the fall semester begins…window fans…Max finding he’s got lots of friends in most of his classes…Gray reconnecting with Jimmy and the way they chatted for hours on speaker phone while playing Minecraft…having a day to hang with Eva (and Thistle and Moth too, of course)…board games…the Genius Bar…exercises helping Annie’s sciatica…

THE BAD: the end of summer break…my computer deciding that it will not allow Airport to be turned on (but, see “the good”)…Annie hurting her back at work and ending up with sciatica (but, see “the good”)…

THE UGLY: the hot, humid weather…

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in the land of parenthood: on the eve of a new school year…

What I wish for my children: that they be happy, that they be kind, that they be responsible, that they be who they want to be.

I know education plays a part, in ways direct and indirect, in ensuring that my wishes for them come true. Or not.

We’ve gotten a bit of flack over the years for our education choices. From family, from friends, from strangers. From those who are adamantly opposed to public schooling. From those who are adamantly opposed to homeschooling.

Whatever.

We’ve always done our best to give each of the kids as individuals the education that meets their own needs best. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that I don’t worry all the time.

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As we start this new school year…

I worry that instituting a more rigid schedule for our homeschool day is going to lead to a good bit of butting of heads with Gray. It didn’t used to be a big problem when much of our school day was spent together, but now that he’s older and works on his own much of the time, it’s really become an issue. This is SO HARD for him. Asperger’s and time perception/time management–yeah, they generally don’t play well together. How do you manage your time when you can’t even perceive time?!! So yeah, this is going to be big on our agenda this year…and I know he’s just not going to like it.

I worry that Gray, despite his intelligence and his creativity, may never be able to function in the social world. And yet Rich and I and even Gray’s psychologist know public school is not the place for him. His social anxiety is just so overwhelming, despite meds and despite years with his amazing psychologist. It’s not that there hasn’t been improvement. But the improvement is slow and spotty and fickle. And I just worry so much…

I worry that Annie’s got too much on her plate with her very full schedule of courses and what I fear may be too many hours at her job. And I worry about how that might affect her health. That the stress will throw her OCD into a tailspin again. I just can’t bear to think of her going through everything she went through last fall all over again.

I worry that she’ll never focus in on that one thing she most wants to do. I get it (I’m so much like her in this); there’s so many damn options for paths that sound intriguing.

I worry that Max will fall back into his “do as little as I can to get by” attitude when it comes to schoolwork/homework. But things have been getting exponentially harder each grade and he’s not going to be able to keep up his excellent grades if he doesn’t start putting in more effort. And they’ve put him in the advanced math class again, and frankly, that makes me nervous. He struggled so much last year being in the advanced class, but his teacher thinks he’s ready for it, so here’s hoping…

I worry that I will spend too much time frustrated over Max’s lack of organizational skills. I can’t even count how many different strategies we’ve tried; his brain just doesn’t seem wired that way. He lost two lunchbags last year, forgot something at school that he needed for his homework countless times, lost a jacket…yeah, frustration.

I worry about little things. And big things.

I worry too much–I know this.

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this past week…week one

In the reading room:

*On Tuesday, I finished up Horizon, the last book in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. If I ever had to describe this series to myself, I’m not sure anything I could have said would have convinced me that I’d love it so much. It’s so very, very different than anything I’ve ever read. And to be brutally honest, I have to wonder if I would have even enjoyed this story if it was written by anyone other than Bujold. The way she told this story was perfection. With each volume, I became more in awe of the way she drew me in. I don’t think anything could have stopped me from listening to the entire series (yep, audiobook), especially by the time I’d gotten through the first two. I was so very invested in the characters–yes Fawn and Dag, but also Remo and Barr and Berry and well, lots of others. Considering that the series (apart from the epilogue in the final volume) takes place in the course of a year, it’s almost amazing the growth she was able to show in her characters. But never once did it feel unbelievable. The world she’d built was fascinating, feeling much like an alternate version of the Great Lakes (which of course is an area near and dear to my heart) and eastern North America to me (though I’ve no idea if that’s what she’d intended). The fantastical aspects felt fresh and original to me (though admittedly, my experience with fantasy literature is fairly limited). And she made me laugh right out loud. Her humor is an easy sort of humor, never forced and never in-your-face. Totally charming, really. And while it is a story of clashing cultures needing to find a way get along, and all the ignorance and stubbornness and frustration and fear and sometimes downright hatred that comes along with that, it is also a story of hope. *heavy sigh* My only regret is that it’s now over, and I really, really want more.

*Tuesday night, I finished Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer. What a powerful book. On the surface, it’s a crime thriller sort of book. But the real story was in all the layers underneath. This is the second book this month (the first being An Unbroken Agony by Randall Robinson, a non-fiction book about Haiti) that left me floored with the overwhelming injustice that thrives on this planet. Both books led me to a deeper understanding of what it feels like to live with the reality of racism. Both books left me feeling helpless and so profoundly sad. Feeling helpless and profoundly sad are obviously not feelings I enjoy, but I don’t want to choose to allow my white privilege to shield me from the truths that so many people cannot hide from because it is the reality they live with day in and day out. This book is fiction, and yet I feel it is brimming with oceans of truth. While there were many passages that made my heart hurt, there is one line that I think will stick with me forever: “Only white people got to be individuals.” This is the first of Alexie’s books that I’ve read, and sheesh, I can’t believe I waited so long. People have long been telling me how great an author he is (though this is probably the book I’ve heard least about), and they most certainly were right.

*Wednesday didn’t see a lot of reading on my part. But I did read “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne for homeschool prep. I really do love his writing. And I enjoyed this story, but it didn’t knock “Rappaccini’s Daughter” out of its favorite-story-by-Hawthorne position. Read another two short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne on Saturday, “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “The Birthmark,” which was a reread.

*Finished up Revival, Volume 5: Gathering of Waters on Friday morning. Definitely still hooked on the series. Love all the intertwined storylines. Volume 4 had an episode in it that made me wonder if the series wasn’t heading off in a “too disturbing and gross” direction for me, but I was relieved of that feeling with this volume. (Not that there isn’t still plenty of disturbing and gross, of course. 😛 ) And I’m trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt, but I admit I’m starting to wonder the explanation behind Revival Day. This bit with the fish and Weimar and the water has me worried that we’re going to end up with some easy cop-out answer to it all. But as I said, for now I’ll stay hopeful, because up to now it has been a cleverly written story and I’m just going to hope that it stays that way.

*Sunday afternoon, I read two essays from Genocide: A Reader for homeschool.

on the screen:

*So many shows in the mix right now. Rich and I watched episode 18 of the first season of Once Upon a Time (“The Stable Boy”). I’ve seen the first season of this show before, but it’s new for Rich. This is one of my favorite episodes of the first season–I loved learning the backstory of the Queen’s hatred of Snow. It’s not that I dislike Snow/Mary Margaret or Emma, but I just find Regina so intriguing. Friday night, we watched the next episode, “The Return,” this one dealing more with Rumpelstiltskin’s/Gold’s backstory. I realize I know nothing about acting, but I personally think Robert Carlyle (and yes, I had to look that up, because I just don’t pay much attention to actor’s names) is simply amazing in his role(s).

*Next up this week, we watched the first episode of season 2 of The Wire (“Ebb Tide”). This is a rewatch for both of us. We previously watched the first three seasons of this show back before it was available streaming. (It was so hard to keep up momentum watching when we had to get the discs through Netflix, especially as I so often needed to get movies/shows for homeschooling.) I don’t like this season quite as much as the first. Or maybe I should say that I didn’t the first time around, as I suppose I could feel quite differently this time.

Later in the week, we watched the next episode, “Collateral Damage.” The line that gave the episode its title made me smile. But the whole reason behind it all just makes me sad. I do get why police officers can’t allow themselves to feel too deeply personal about victims; it would undoubtedly be too crushing to one’s own well-being. But somehow it seems there ought to be a middle ground between the pain of caring too deeply and complete callous disregard. Fourteen women died…and no one wanted to be “saddled” with investigating what had happened, no one cared that these women were people. There is so much about this show that just plain hurts the heart. But that is part of the reason that it is so good–it’s putting the realities of our world right in our faces. And all the realities aren’t ugly ones; there are glimmers of hope in the minds and actions of individuals.

*Max and I have been watching Breaking Bad. He is obsessed with the show, and has seen it all a few times already. I had previously watched the first season and just wasn’t feeling it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I didn’t like about it. But when Max asked me to give it another chance and watch it with him, how could I say “no”? We’re in the second season now, and I do think I’m maybe enjoying it more. Tuesday we watched episode 4, “Down.” I loved the way Skyler is standing up for herself and refusing to take Walt’s bullshit anymore. And as much as I really do like Jesse, and as hard as it was to watch him become homeless, I had to respect what his parents did in making him leave his aunt’s house.

*Not up for another long show, Max and I then watched a quick episode of Parks and Recreation. He’s seen all the seasons that are on Netflix so far, but I’m just a newbie. We watched episode 5, “The Banquet.” And of course, it made me laugh. Doesn’t it always. Though I’m very glad to have spoken to a few people about how the show proceeds. Because at the moment I sort of have a like/not like relationship with the character of Leslie. I mean it’s sort of hard not to like her, but at the same time I can’t help but think, “Why do you have make her be such an airhead all the time?!!” But I’ve been reassured that this gets much better.

*In an effort to survive the heat, Rich and I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening binging on NCIS. Six episodes in all, episodes 15-20 of season one (“Enigma,” “Bete Noire,” “The Truth is Out There,” “Unsealed,” “Dead Man Talking,” and “Missing). I really enjoy this show, and it’s become a relaxing way for Rich and I to spend a lazy afternoon. But it is definitely not without it’s problematic moments. For example, I was quite annoyed with the transphobic elements in “Dead Man Talking.” I used to often watch this show on TV in its early seasons, and while I don’t really remember individual episodes, I do remember one story arc that has its start in “Bete Noire.” Tears to come in the future.. Saturday night, we watched the next two episodes (“Split Decisions” and “A Weak Link”), and then Sunday night the next three (“Reveille,” “See No Evil,” and “The Good Wives Club”).

*Thursday morning, Gray asked me to watch a Criminal Minds with him. We watched episode 14 of season 9 (“200”), the episode where we really get to see what J.J. was up to with the State Department. Rather a disturbing storyline. But then what isn’t disturbing about this show, right?

*I remembered that I’d better get on with watching Rosemary & Thyme, as it’s going to be taken off Netflix in mid-August. So after making myself feel productive by getting through a school lecture, I pulled it up and watched a few episodes while crocheting on the tee shirt rug. Episode 6 (“The Tree of Death”) from season 1 and episodes 1 and 2 (“The Memory of Water, Parts One and Two”) from season 2. Then Sunday, I snuck in the next two episodes (“Orpheus in the Undergrowth” and “They Understand Me in Paris”). I absolutely love this show. The mysteries can be sort of silly, but I love Laura and Rosemary so much that it makes up for a lot. It’s not often when you get to see middle-aged women be smart and funny and happy with who they are in a television show.

In the craft room:

*I’ve been so ridiculously lazy on the card-making front lately. But on Monday I finally made Sara’s birthday card (her birthday was Tuesday, so the word “belated” really should have been included somewhere). Alas, in my rush to then get everyone to sign it and get it off in Monday’s mail, I forgot to take a photo. Not that it was anything spectacular, but I actually rather liked it. I also made birthday cards for Ed and for Trish Monday–how can it be time to make August cards already?!! Slow down, Summer, I beg of you!

Then on Tuesday, I got Ruth’s birthday card made. Just two more August birthdays to go, unless I’m forgetting someone (which isn’t out of the question).

*I also finished this sweet little bunny on Monday. A gift for Gigi, Natasha’s beautiful new babe. Every time she posts a picture of her, I feel like my face might burst from smiling so much over her complete and total adorableness.

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*During that excessive amount of TV watching, I got down to work on a couple of Christmas gifts. One a rather large cross-stitch picture and the other a granny square afghan, for which I got 18 squares made this week.

In the kitchen:

*Very lackluster week in the kitchen due to the heat. We mostly ate leftovers, snacks, and went out to eat far more often than we should have. But Saturday I did manage to make up a menu plan for the next week, which is forecast to be cooler.

*Menu plan:

–Sunday: diner sandwiches, fries, pickles

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–Monday: grilled cheese on homemade bread, soup

–Tuesday is our anniversary so we’ll be going out

–Wednesday: spaghetti, homemade Italian herb bread, salad

–Thursday: slow cooker mac & cheese (new recipe), broccoli, homemade rolls, and cherry bars (another new recipe)

–Friday is up in the air, because Rich and kids may be leaving that afternoon to head to his mom’s for the weekend.

In the garden:

*As much frustration and heartache as the garden has brought this year–through disease and even more so wildlife–we watered it a few nights this week, because it’s been so hot and dry. Might as well try to save what little is coming back after the deer raid and relentless groundhog burrowings. Some of the beans plants have come back enough to actually be sporting a few pods at this point. And the zucchini and cucumbers are fighting their way back too, and are flowering. *fingers crossed* I mean, I know we won’t get the abundant haul we normally do, but hopefully we’ll still get something.

*After two years straight of failed tomato crops due to early blight, we decided to give the ground a year off and plant in pots. Of course, this meant starting far fewer seeds, and giving up on the idea of canning truckloads. But alas, some of these plants have gotten blight anyway. *heavy sad sigh* Still, we’re struggling through, trying to save what we can, and hoping that at least a some of the plants will get through unscathed. We’ve finally got our first little tomatoes. *more finger crossing*

*We’re also getting our first jalapenos, despite the deer eating down all 68 plants we had pretty drastically.

In the home improvement realm:

*Hooray for me! I forced myself to get the third coat on the walls Tuesday morning. The white paint looks so fresh and has done wonders brightening up the room.

*Friday morning, I figured I couldn’t put off painting the trim much longer, so up I headed with the orange paint. I’ve always been pretty good at having a steady hand for trim painting, but I was soon reminded that fibro has a way of changing things. After painting just a small portion, I knew I was just going to have to tape it all off. So Saturday afternoon, I got started on that. I didn’t have enough painter’s tape, so Rich stopped and got me some while he was out running errands. Sadly, he bought a cheap-ass brand, and it just wouldn’t stick. I ended up having to pull down what hadn’t just fallen off on its own, and Rich went and bought a new roll. I just wasn’t up for another attempt (it is SO HARD on my neck/shoulders/upper back) that evening, but I got back to it Sunday morning. Got about halfway done before Ed and Ruth called.

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In the homeschooling realm:

*I really, really, really need to buckle down over the next few weeks and get a bunch of work done. This week just didn’t see a lot of progress…

*While I’d done the bulk of the planning for the first week of geometry previously, I got around to putting the final tweaks on things and writing it out in my planning binder on Tuesday. I also finished typing up week one’s vocabulary list (most words came from the week’s short story readings, but there were also a few from the week’s readings in our genocide/human rights class and a few from the week’s history class).

*As mentioned above, I read “Young Goodman Brown” on Wednesday, and the next day I listened to the lecture, taking notes that I then typed up into a handout. Also typed up some discussion questions. On Saturday, I read another two Hawthorne stories, and an essay by Herman Melville about Hawthorne’s writing. But I’ve decided that I won’t be having Gray read the essay as I just don’t think he’d get much from it (other than annoyed at me for making him read it 😛 ).

*Also on Saturday, I typed up a vocab test for week one’s list. And got week two’s English plans finalized in my binder.

*Sunday afternoon, Rich and I headed to Starbucks for a couple hours to work. As noted above, I read two essays for our genocide/human rights course. I made up a notes guide for the first essay and a journal writing assignment to go along with the second.

In the land of parenthood:

*It’s official–Max is now as tall as I am. That makes all three of them.

*As much as Annie loves her job at the library, it’s just taken such a toll on all of us because of how far away it is since we moved. The one hour round-trip just isn’t worth it three days a week. Especially since Rich has to take her, and it’s just too expensive and environmentally unsound for him to come home during her shifts. So she decided to apply at Tim Hortons right down the road from us, and she interviewed last weekend. While the interview went well, the manager told her that they really needed someone who was available more hours, especially in the mornings. But then Saturday morning, Annie got a call that she had a job there working in the evenings if she wanted it. YAY!!! So the new job might not be as cool as her old one, but there will be a lot of benefits, including the fact that she’ll now be able to walk to work.

Fellow inhabitants:

*Oh my, how that not-quite-5-pound pile of bones and fur can put up a fight every day when we have to give her her pills. I hate stressing Aldo out like that, but all the medicines really do make a noticeable difference in how she feels. And luckily, she never holds a grudge.

*Every time I see Flapjack, I’m just amazed by how smitten I am with the little cutie pie! I never had any idea what incredible companions they could be. He is utterly perfect for Gray, and Gray takes such exquisite care of the fellow.

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On the project front:

*Didn’t really make a lot of progress. Indian Killer filled a slot in the “Native American/First Nations” on my 104×4.

*And our outing Friday afternoon let me fill in a few slots on my 50×50: 7/50 for item #6 (Hike/walk on 50 different trails), 22/50 for item #12 (Try 50 new restaurants), and 7/50 for item #49 (Photograph 50 different animals in the wild).

Happenings with friends:

*Rich and I got to spend Thursday evening with Eva. It had been too long since we’d all gotten together. It’s always a delight to walk into her apartment and get the loving, enthusiastic welcome that Thistle always provides. Oh how that sweet girl has my heart. As does Moth, the little sweetie pie. Seriously, I have no idea how Eva managed to get two such completely perfect companions, but I’m grateful we get to have them in our lives too. But of course, the best part of the night was getting to hang with Rich and Eva. We went to Sticky Lips of a late supper. Delicious food and awesome people…I’m a lucky girl, I tell you.

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*Sunday morning brought a truly lovely surprise–Ed and Ruth called us from the Sodus area and asked if we were going to be around in an hour. They had been in the Thousand Islands area and are now traveling along the Seaway Trail along the Lake Ontario. They only stayed for an hour or so, but it was quite the wonderful visit! I really wish we got to see them more often. My pathetic brain forgot to snap any pictures. 😦

Out and about:

*Rich and I took Annie to work Monday night. (We didn’t have pick her up because she was going home with Kirstin after work.) We hit then Big Lots to pick up a fan to help get us through this hot spell that is supposed to last through the week. Then we headed up to campus because Rich had an appointment to do advisement with a new student. Last stop was best–dinner at Monte Alban.

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*Fridays this summer have been days that Rich and I try to set aside for ourselves. Hasn’t always worked out, but we’ve managed most. This Friday we checked out Gosnell Big Woods Preserve (which was awesome and about which I made a post already), and then we tried Hooligans for the first time (yum–we both had the bayou burger, but of course, I had mine made with a veggie patty), and finally we hit B&N for coffee and relaxing.

Appreciating the natural world:

*I was sitting in the bedroom emailing Ana, facing the window but at a different angle than usual, and I spied a bird’s nest largely hidden in the grapevines cascading off the trees. While I’m sad that I hadn’t seen it sooner, as it’s surely been there a while, I’m delighted to have discovered it at all. With the naked eye, I can’t see much more than the vague shape of the nest and movement. Even with the binoculars, I can’t get a great look–mom did a great job concealing her nest. I was able to capture a not-so-great photo, and from that was able to confirm that it’s a robin’s nest.

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*I am also quite enamored with the morning glories growing out back.

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*Sunday brought another lovely surprise–I was just looking out our bedroom window and there in the yard right at the edge of where the grass meets the wild vegetation was a king rail! I didn’t know what kind of bird it was at first, but I got a wonderful look at the beautiful creature before running to yell down the stairs to tell Rich. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the bedroom it was gone so I was unable to get a photo. I described it to Rich, and he said it might have been a rail as he’d heard them in the swamp from time to time. So I looked it up and sure enough, it was a rail. A king rail, to be specific.

*There were also a lot of butterflies about in the flower garden Sunday, including cabbage whites, sulphurs, a tiger swallow, and this viceroy.

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The weather report:

*Three words: Too. Fucking. Hot.

In sickness and in health:

*Painting is not at all kind to fibro. Duh. But I’m grateful to say that while the first coat threw me into a fairly short-lived flare, the second and third coats, while leaving me in more pain than normal, didn’t actually land me in flare ups. I’ve been careful to spread the painting out, and I think it’s paid off. So yay me! Unfortunately, taping off the trim has been a whole ‘nother story…