Healing and my MS

As I washed my face last night I noticed that my right pupil was smaller than my left – and realized that my shoulder must be almost healed. Let me explain –

I have Multiple Sclerosis, the auto-immune disease that is “personalized” – my body attacks and heals my nervous system connections in ways that are unique, but also typical, to ME. Many of my brain lesions are in my visual cortex – resulting in vertigo, nystagmus (jumpy eyeballs), a left eyelid that functions much slower than the right (proven by almost every photograph of me), and most recently the change in pupil size of my right eye. My original diagnosis in 2001 was a direct result of an eye exam – not of the bazillion tests run during a 5 day hospital stay caused by my first “neurological episode”.  Over the years, my visual idiosyncrasies have become a valuable barometer of my MS activity – a way for me to actually SEE when my lesion activity is active or quiet.

I also have cognitive symptoms – or what I call “brain mud”- when I want to say a word or express a thought but simply cannot make it come out of my mouth – when I start to write something down and after three letters have no idea how to finish it – when I have no clue why I have taken ANOTHER coffee mug out of the cabinet while holding the one I was going to fill up.

And memory loss – let’s not even go there, because those connections are buried under layers of lesions. Before you think, “Oh, that happens when you get older” or “That happens to me too”, understand that  all of these things have been verified by the location of the lesions seen in my brain MRIs. And yes, there are other symptoms that come out to play – actual physical manifestations of the nervous system attacks – but I’ve learned that they aren’t always reliable (the hand tremors may just be a result of too much caffeine and no breakfast).

I have discovered over the years that my MS is somewhat OCD – it likes to focus – and jump into overdrive when it finds a new place to “play”.  Although it may seem counter intuitive, my typical symptoms calm down or even improve when there is ‘something else’ to focus one – a cold, physical stress, pregnancy or an injury. So, when I dislocated my shoulder and tore the hell out of my rotator cuff in the process – I enjoyed a respite from my ‘normal’ MS while it focused on healing the shoulder.  Actually, OVER healing the shoulder – resulting in a frozen shoulder that required manipulation under anesthesia to “break it loose” and allow me to once again lift my arm up high enough to get out that second coffee mug.

Which brings me full circle.

Last night I saw the smaller right pupil.

Earlier this morning I got out the second mug.

Right now I am struggling to type this post – –

the shoulder must be getting better.

After the rains…

This past weekend was pretty wet –  I put out my “Arkansas rain gauge” on Saturday morning at 6:30 am. It rained ALL day Saturday and ALL day Sunday and Monday at noon I went out and dumped 10 inches of water out of my bucket.20160815_114326

By Monday at 6 pm it had totaled 11.75 inches. We have been pretty hot and dry, and the lake had dropped quite a bit, but two and a half days of rain helped bring it back up almost to the high spring water line.

Changing waterlines means changing critters – sightings of the water moccasin have been scarce lately – but the little Green Heron loves the higher waterline and the easy pickings as the underground critters try to escape the rising water.P1020573P1020576

The dragonflies are back in swarms –P1020595

and the butterflies seem happy to be able to be back out and about.P1020586

The rain didn’t seem to bother the squirrels much – they spent most of the rain days in my nut trees, chewing loudly and dropping the remnants onto the deck.

Anyone know where I can get a hardhat?


Rough Legged Hawk

Perhaps my favorite resident at Heuston Woods State Park- a light morph Rough Legged Hawk, who also proved to be the most stubborn subject of the day.


This beauty had it’s right wing amputated – and consistently demonstrated the natural instinct of self preservation whenever we would get close. These two shots are all I was able to capture of the right side – and they were taken from a distance, because as soon as we would approach, he would turn the damaged side away from the potential threat.


Rough legged hawks spend their summers hunting lemmings and breeding in the Arctic – and only come down into the upper US during the winter, so I have never seen one in a natural setting, and I was stunned by it’s gorgeous coloration. Their common name comes from the fact that their legs are covered in feathers all the way to the toes – but Mr. Stubborn wasn’t co-operating with any photographic evidence – staying hunkered down and turned away for the majority of our visit.


There are dark morphs as well – which I’m sure are gorgeous too; but the play of grey, white, black and brown was simply striking to me.



Although  he was about the same size, and had the same body build as the Red Tailed Hawk next to him, (both Buteos) his head and bill are noticeably smaller . . .

resembling members of the Accipiter family – like the Cooper’s Hawk.


It was interesting to see these kind of differences between the hawk families – up close and literally side by side – and to compare them to the falcon, owl and vulture residents.

I loved getting some pictures of these amazing birds – but my absolute favorite part was the time spent with 3 of my “baby birds”. . .20160729_142943.jpg





Great Horned Owl

This Great Horned Owl was another permanent resident at Heuston Woods State Park – a huge bird –

with scary strong feet and talons…P1020540


and the enviable ability to turn it’s head almost completely around….P1020542

whenever it was tired of my camera clicks. LOL

It always looked a little irritated – but then again, if I was a nocturnal bird, kept in a cage without any hiding places, all day, every day, I’d be irritated too.


Because of it’s size I couldn’t avoid the cage wires like I could with the smaller raptors, so the inevitable blur occurred in all of the shots, but giving me some great super close detail shots after cropping.


Overall – a really impressive bird!



Red Tail Hawk

This hawk is a perfect example of the injuries some of the birds at Heuston Woods State Park rehabilitation center have sustained.P1020498.JPG

Obviously, with a wing this badly damaged – release is impossible. This red tail was one of the raptors in a cage very close to the walking path, and I was able to get some great closeups, although the blurred area caused by the cage wire is visible in nearly all of the shots.

We saw the larger birds using the nictitating membrane frequently – to moisten and clear their eyes without ever losing sight of us.

P1020501And they stared at us as much as we stared at them.


The second day we went, this bird was on the ground next to his water bowl…wings and mouth open to try and cool itself from the heat and humidity.


The feathers around it’s neck area seemed thinner than normal, but perhaps that was a side effect of not really having “shoulders” due to the extreme wing damage, or the natural stressors of being flightless and caged. Regardless, another beautiful bird.


Bald Eagles

In a huge pen in the very center of the Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Heuston Woods State Park were 2 bald eagles.The one on the right is fully mature – with the distinctive white head and tail, while the other one is 4-5 years old and will most likely be fully white by next year. P1020502

In order to get pictures, I had to go through 3 layers of fencing, several trees and the undergrowth of plants in their enclosure, which means I didn’t get very many good shots.


They are gorgeous birds – this one seemed to know it – and posed for me…


and I even captured a wink from the nictitating membrane (third eyelid)!P1020548

Cooper’s Hawk


All of the birds at the Heuston Woods State Park have serious injuries that prevent them forom ever being released back into the wild. This Cooper’s Hawk was one of the “luckier” ones – – he/she was not in a cage, but had a small house and perching stand out in the open, but much farther away from the viewing areas. I was able to get full body shots, but this was at “Max Zoom”. He/she had wing damage, and nerve damage to one leg/foot from a collision with a vehicle. I took pictures on two different days- and he/she barely changed positions.P1020517

This picture shows it’s typical stance – with the damaged leg held up off the perch.  Both days were quite warm, so most of the birds were fluffed up – allowing any breeze that was available to cool them off. Males and females are very similar looking, so I’m not sure which this bird is – but the eyes were a very dark red (amateur photographer that I am, didn’t capture that very well LOL ) so I do know that it’s an older bird, because their eyes are bright yellow until they are about 3-5 years old. All of the birds here had jesses on, which are quite obvious n these shots.

I have several Cooper’s Hawks around my place in Arkansas, but rarely get to see them other than a blur as they zip through the trees or a silhouette as they stalk the bird feeders. I have seen them actually run on the ground after prey in the fields alongside the road – something I’ve never seen other hawks do. It was nice to get a decent shot of one of my “backyard raptors” – even though it was taken several states away.


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