Tuesday, December 31, 2019


What did 2019 bring us?

Well. Hmm.
NO medical incidents! Wow. That was awesome!
Family unrest. Well, yes that happened.

MDD. I visited the black hole with Rich. And it is not a pretty place. However by June we saw him climb out of despair.

I learned to drive the skid steer. I broke the skid steer. I hired out to get it fixed. Becoming a shade tree mechanic is NOT my forte.
But I can change the oil in the little mower. I got help to do the 4 wheeler and the big mower. Both are in line for a tune up this spring.

MIL was taken to the nursing home. Her Helping Hands folks were doing their best, but her health was precarious and her slippage was getting the best of her.

I discovered Infrared photography with a little converted pocket camera. I fell head over heels in love with the look.

I met Miss Molly and she was a welcome relief from constant running to Pulmonary Therapy appointments and physical therapy. She made me stop and ride mules with her. I have her to thank for many things.

I bought a cross between a road and dirt bike and rediscovered bicycling distances. If I had fenders, I'd be out on these nice days fighting the wicked muddy gravel roads!

Rich had the knee bursa moved and it was a great success. The attending doctor described it as 'kinda gross looking'.

We had some great visits from my Kenosha Gang and I got to dog sit Teslin!

When I look back on the years, I generally see them as pretty good. I'm lucky to be with a partner that I really respect and love and I know it is reciprocated but not always very evident.
Yes I am Rich's CareGiver, but I am his partner too.

Our lives are pretty good. We have a roof over our heads, plenty to eat, and we have each other.
Color me blessed.

How lucky am I too also be making new friends through CrossFit.

Last but not least is a new interest in macro photography.

Oh there is so much more, but I will leave things like that.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Stuck inside

Well, I am but by choice.

There was this big HUGE ice storm that was supposed to make the roads dangerous this morning. Didn't happen, which I am grateful for, but I planned ahead for it. I decided to make chocolate chip cookies and homemade stew on Monday while the storm rage ON outside.

Did my supply shopping early. Came home with the sun out and the temperatures at 50 degrees. Wow!
I thought twice about pulling up next to the house.

I should have thought 3 times about that.
Warm weather pulled the frost out of the top 3 inches of soil. I pulled into a gushy soft area.
Oh crap.

I unloaded and then we talked a bit about the weather. Rich said I should go ahead and back it into the big shed. I replied that I thought the ground was too gushy mushy for that.
Never mind. I thought I'd try it nice and easy. I was able to back up a bit but as soon as I hit the real soft spot, the Subaru just started slowly edging sideways.
Nothing worse than gooey mud.
I wrangled my way out of the goo and parked down the driveway next to the horse trailer.

I left huge ruts which I tried to stomp down. I didn't do a very good job.

I plan on having the lower driveway redone next year. New base, new gravel.

During the spring thaw, I can't park in this area at all. Yesterday was just like that except in December.

There I go not thinkin' again!
Just like this morning when I made a pot of coffee and wondered why it wasn't working?
One needs to add water.

I think I need to have a 'Time Out'.
Can someone stick me in a corner and let me sit and read?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Some photography 'stuff'

So, what are my thoughts on the Olympus Tough TG 6?

Here is a sample of the slow motion video capture I took.
I took one of Sven running through the woods and posted it to FB. It came out really quite nice.

I'm still working on some of the features. But I adore the macro features it has.

Samples of just the macro:

Sample of in camera focus stack:

I need to get a bean bag or bag of rice to carry with so I can experiment ... this were taken hand held...

Still, pretty impressive and it would work much better on an insect or tiny mushroom.

I just got another plug in that I was never impressed with 10 years ago. It is called Topaz DeNoise AI. Now I AM impressed.
Here is a sample.

The above is a screen shot from an unedited Infrared shot from this summer with the Canon ELPH. That little camera had a lot of 'color' noise but is so handy to have in one's pocket.

Then here is one I just took the other day shown in Topaz DeNoise AI.

This is shown at 100%. We call it Pixel Peeping. Yes, there was noise but the light was poor.  It was shot at ISO 800 which creates noise but allows you to get the shot without it being blurry.

And yes, this was crazy red!

So, I am loving the Oly TG6 for many reasons. Easy to carry, easy to get the little things.
I understand the crazy menu that Olympus has since I've had some kind of Olympus camera since 2004. I love being able to take it out in poor weather and I love that it is waterproof.

While out yesterday afternoon, I took out my Infrared camera and used a 550nm filter. I've never been able to get any look that I've ever wanted with the 550, so I was frustrated to no end.

Well, I think I figured it out.

Really interesting. And of course there was no real good sun reflection for the IR which is best in very strong light. But still I enjoyed getting the IR Chrome effect with the 550nm filter.

I really like the white foliage a bit better. Not sure about this red/purply color.

I will have to do some more experimenting.

I ordered this photo on a faux canvas from this summer:

This is my favorite spot in the creek in any season.

I've thought of a fun new little project to work on. Telling a story with a tiny Teddy Bear I found....
Say Hi...
I'm not sure what to call him. Lil Bear?

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Cut Off Trail

Sometimes wandering from the path is a good thing.

Yesterday on a whim, I texted to my neighbor that I'd be off to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve later on, just in case anyone would be interested.

Lauren and I often text each other on a whim for activities 'just in case' it works out for either her or me.
Yesterday it worked out for her and the kids...and the dogs too.

I guided them to the Cut Off Trail which I had hiked last February with Charlie. We'd only gone along below the bluffs that day as I wasn't sure just how long or where exactly the other end of the trail came out on County P.
After the hike last year, I drove over to where it came out and decided that I'd do that leg of the trail and walk the road back to where I'd park next time out.

I always carry a map and have a compass [yes a real live compass] attached to my back pack. In the back pack, I have snacks, water, hot chocolate, dog treats, emergency blanket [the space age kind], a lighter and a Fire starter log.

Hiking in KVR is pretty remote. So I always feel the need to be prepared. Hiking near home is the same way.

Well there I go, sidetracked!

We walked along the lower edges of the bluff and the kids kept exclaiming *Wow!* Each time we found ice formations or cool roots...or something interesting.

I can assure you, that the little frozen 'dry run' that had water seeping down through the rocks was so much more interesting than the trail was.

The day was pretty dark and gloomy, but there was a whole lot of laughter and exploration happening.

We eventually headed up the trail and along the ridge tops, following a trail that used to be equine only, but is now a multi use trail for hikers and equine. In the winter it is used by those brave folks with fat tire bikes and others with snowshoes.

By the time we got back to the vehicle, it was getting dark and the little dogs were tired. I'm pretty sure that Basil had run twice the distance that we had walked. Charlie was a bit more conservative in his distance running.

We got home after dark.

It was a perfect afternoon.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Not your normal Christmas theme, but hey why not?

While dealing with my MIL and her dementia and other health issues, I've discovered that happiness is not necessarily 'stuff' or getting gifts or things accumulated.

Two of the happiest days I've had this past month have been days that I did something for someone else.
The day I Christmas Cards with my MIL.

And then yesterday, opening more cards with her and then going back to her room to take all the cards off the bulletin board and look through them again.

I moved her tiny tree into the sunlight and we admired how the snowflakes reflected the light.

I moved the snow man around and put her tiny Santa Teddy Bear on her night stand next to her candy.

And then I put the cards and photos back on the bulletin board.

She announced that she was ready for a nap and I helped her to bed and covered her up.

I asked if I could give her a hug and she said, "Off course!"

When I got home I told Rich that I'd had the best Christmas present ever and he asked what I meant.

I said, "A bit of Happiness, brought on by making your mother smile today."

And I realized something. That hour of doing for someone else was exactly the type of feel good gift I was looking for.

It touched that part of my brain that spread a bit of glow all around me for the afternoon.

There is no physical gift that could ever give me that same feeling.
And I gave it to myself by sharing.

Now time to make coffee.

Find some happiness today.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Great Weekend!

I had to wake Charlie up and ask him if he'd like to do chores with me. He likes to spend early mornings buried in blankets on the couch. Should I say he is a spoiled dog?
Okay. He is a spoiled dog.

After chores we decided to take the forest detour to the mail box to pick up Saturday's mail.
He flushed up 3 rabbits and gave chase.
Thank goodness for that beeper collar. I can call him off track when he gets a bit too far for comfort. [Think tiny dog snack to coyotes]

Rich is feeling a bit better now that the meds he reacted to are finally out of his system.

Saturday we had a short visit from my friend from CrossFit. She stopped by and was telling me about needing a 'pet taxi' or crate for her daughter's little dog and she was flabbergasted as to how expensive they were. I straightened up and asked her to step into my Pickers Shed! I found Morris's old crate which was in perfect shape, but very dusty. I asked her if she'd take it off my hands.
Talk about a win win situation!
Now I just need to finish fixing up the truck and haul the other 8 crates into the animal shelter.
My friend Kristi said she would love to bring her kids out to hike this week while they are out of school. Two of the kids are getting pocket cameras for Christmas and she said that I'd inspired them when I'd visited their farm last month to take family photos.
Another Win for me! I adore hiking with kids and teaching them about cameras!

My neighbor's boy received a hand me down pocket camera of mine. You should have seen Carson's face when he realized what was in the box! We'll go hiking later today. Color me tickled.
Allison, my little bug gal, wishes to be an Entomologist when she grows up. I found an amazing book called Bugopedia for her. The youngest boy adores rabbits and has 3 pet rabbits. I found a book called Rabbit and Me for him.

I dropped by the nursing home to take some hand made Christmas cards from the neighbor children to MIL. She loved them so much that she passed them around her lunch table for everyone to admire.
I decorated her room some more and hung her cards that she received.

We've had very nice weather for the past few days and a lot of sunshine. I think that has to be why everything feels that much nicer.

I end this with a shot from this morning. I could see the sky just barely beginning to show light when I walked out into the chill with a camera and tripod. This was a 37 second exposure done in Live Time with a ground fog moving through.
I think it is my favorite sunrise photo of the year!

Saturday, December 21, 2019


So, I got the 4 wheeler going. But now I understand that it needs more than just my help.
I sat down yesterday morning and read the manual and Troubleshooting Guide for this machine. Really, I do like this 4 wheeler, and I think with a tune up and spark plug change, it could run for me all winter long, but other than hauling things with the cart, I don't use it much in the winter.

So at CrossFit we were sitting around after working out and someone made a suggestion that was actually a great idea.


Yeah. A Polaris Ranger with a snow plow. These newer UTV's are for working and have engine block heaters and electronic fuel injection and all sorts of gizmo thingies to run in the winter or summer and the cheaper version can haul 800lbs of 'stuff'.
Oh my heart be still.
Yes, it is expensive, but I think I could easily sell the skid steer and get one of these which would be sooooo much more useful!

I'm thinking of how to approach Rich. It may take a year or so, but I think I have found a solution.
Yesterday I 'aired' up the truck tire and moved it to a level spot so if it goes flat again I can take the tire off.
One of the reasons I haven't sold the truck is that we had a conversation about it last year. Rich said that truck was to last as long as he lived. Huh. Do I need to say more?

So on to the fun stuff.

Yesterday morning ... going out for chores....

The dawn was delightful.
The temperatures were mild and dry!

So later in the day I thought I'd take a short walk with Charlie. I took a bagful of stuff for ... well, here it is:

I'm always searching for a fun way to use the woods as a backdrop for some still life photography.
Can you guess which camera I used to take this photo? Hint [the little Tough Camera!]

Or this?

Charlie was not amused at this intervention of his job to smell and search out squirrels. However he did sit still for me. Just would NOT look at me directly. I'll have to try this again with some dog treats!

Lighted vase in between two mossy rocks...

An Elf...

Grumpy Gnome...

Cowboy snowman...

All sorts of fun in the woods!

And then an incredible sunset....

Let the Winter Solstice celebration begin!

Friday, December 20, 2019

An exercise in ...


I used the maintenance trickle charger to keep the 4 wheeler battery happy just as I was told to do by the guys at the place where I bought the expensive battery this spring.

However. When starting the 4 wheeler...it would not NOT start. Bingo. Hmm. I opened up the gas tank as I knew it was low.
Imagine my surprise to find it nearly dry as a bone. My friend had used it during deer hunting season. I think he parked it and didn't think to tell me? I knew it was low ...but dang.
So I went and got gas and gave it a good drink.

Still NO go.

So I left it alone while I worked in the shed with Rich's tool mess and started to sort them. Did you know he had 14 13/16 inch open wrench thingies? Yep, I counted them. I have plastic coffee cans that I am separating the tools into. I can then move the saw horses with the pile of hay chaff and other gross things away and make a place to put tools that is not in the way and is not filthy with bird droppings.
I went back and tried to start it again. Nope, same thing over and over.

Finally I kicked the heck out of it and swore at it. I put it in neutral, released the brake and considered pushing it into the yard and taking the battery out of it until spring. I also considered shooting it. However I sort of like the 4 wheeler and the tiny cart for yard work.

I stomped into the house and tossed my gloves and boots. Rich looked up and I said I was done...done..done...done. I wasn't going to pretend to be the maintenance gal anymore...., I didn't know what the hell I was doing and I was going to sell everything that was machinery on the farm except for the lawn mowers.

Well color me surprised. Rich said he'd get dressed and go start it.

I told him to wait a day. I looked up the manual on Google Docs where I stored it and read about cold starting. I'd probably flooded it.
I even tried to find out more about hard to start 4 wheelers. Apparently the older ones don't like to start in the cold weather. Newer ones have heaters in them. Seriously though, last year I never used the thing, just figured it wouldn't start because of the cold. This year I thought I'd run it in the winter. Maybe I was wrong about that and should just shove it into a corner and leave it until spring arrived.

But I was serious about getting rid of things I don't like to run, like the skid steer. It is a beautiful piece of machinery but in truth, it is not earning its keep anymore. If the only thing I am keeping it for is to clean up after someone else plows, is it worth keeping? I don't know. I suppose after a blizzard I'd wish I had it ... if it was gone. Maybe Rich can show me how to put the plow on and how IT works. I just need to get him outside so he can show me. That is the issue. I need hands on guidance.

Today I'm going to air up the tire in the truck and park it on the level. That way if the tire loses air again, I can jack it up and take the tire to be fixed. Another pain.

I'll use the warm weather today to get the skid steer out and warm up the engine and its parts and maybe pick up some wood that is laying up in the pasture. It needs to do some work and I need to get more comfortable with it.

Give me animals to take care of. I understand them. Machinery is not my forte.

[Last note...maybe I am so hopless and helpless after all. I read the troubleshooting manual this morning and it sounds like the sparkplug should be replaced if it won't start again where the heck is that? So it could be that if I can't start it, I will push it into a corner of the shed and wait until spring to work on it with my neighbor. I'll take the battery out and store it in the basement and do the maintenance charge on it once a month.]

Thursday, December 19, 2019

So I tried painting....

This is where things started...

This is where things got messy. Too much 'stuff' to try and do and not enough time to just relax.  Husband kept interrupting and telling me I had a mess.

So I splattered paint on it .. dripped paint on it, then took some black and took a few swipes.

And then decided that my Picasso days were never going to happen....

I turned to digital.

I took this....

And did this.....

Then tried this...ewwwww....

And ...

Then went to a digital program that allowed me to pick some effects and combined that with Painter Essentials that auto painted. I blended the effects and got this.

Yup. I can live with this.

I have no talent with abstract painting or real painting, but sure can have fun with DeepDream, Digital Paint Essentials, and Topaz Impressions!

I like this. I'd even put it on my wall. So cheery and much nicer than the mess I created.

But I am willing to try it again.

I also doodled in fractals and made a Christmas Fractal:

Okay, I made two versions. Mandebulb 3D mixed with Incendia.

I think I'll stick to painting fun and funky chairs instead of canvases!

Happy almost Winter Solstice!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Good Day!

Yesterday was one of those days that started off where I was tired, grumpy, and just not a very nice person.
The day was dreary and ugly.

I skipped CrossFit since I was so tired and decided to do some other things. I thought I'd try going with the Christmas Cards again to the Nursing Home to see MIL. Perhaps she would be in a better mood and want to sign a few so I could send them out for her.

I'd contacted Rich's doctor and we exchanged thoughts through Secure Messaging. Doc is going to think on things and talk to some others. He feels depression is a huge issue but since the stroke Rich has become hyper sensitive to medications. Plus he'll see the results of last week's brain MRI are and what neurology has to offer.

So I did my errands and headed over to the Nursing Home. I was armed with Hershey Kisses and Cards and addresses. MIL was in a much better mood than last week and agreed to do cards. I think the candy bribe helped.

I put up the 3 cards she had received and talked to the staff. They said I could decorate her room more if I'd like. I will do that too.
MIL and I sat together for over and hour as I went through a list of names of people in her immediate family.

At one point she grabbed a card and handed it to me. She said, "This goes to Rich and Val...you will mail it for me, right?" I nodded and took it, telling her 'of course I will!'

We had quite a nice little stack by the time we were done and she was tired out. So I helped her to her easy chair and packed up. Rich was napping when I got home so I took time to take Sven and Charlie for a walk.

After supper I settled down to address all of the cards and write notes in them. I even posted on FB a request for MIL's relatives to PM me for an address so we could fill up her bulletin board with pretty cards.

I don't understand the way so many people in a nursing facility seem to be the hidden and forgotten people.
It just makes me sad.

However, MIL and I really did have a nice time.

And she is well cared for here.

I texted a this photo of her doing cards to her daughter and grand daughter. I got a huge thank you from the grand daughter and the daughter started asking me in short bursts of texts...
Did you get ... so and so?
Did you get ...
and after 8 texts of names [of people I don't know but who are relatives]...

I texted her back that no we didn't, but SHE could contact those relatives and ask them to send her mom a card as that surely would make her day and help decorate her room.

I really felt great after finishing those cards up. And I even slept all night last night!
I'm ready for this new day.

And I will go back Friday to decorate MIL's room a bit more.

Tomorrow we have to be up and out the door before daybreak to meet with the neurosurgeon regarding the results of the brain MRI.
Rich was feeling a bit more himself yesterday and even sat down to watch something with me before going to bed early.

I slept on the couch with Charlie and it was a nice sound night of sleep!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


That is not a word you will hear often. In fact, until today, I've never even heard of that word.

I found it while looking through some articles on Stroke and Apathy. I was looking things up and I do not really believe in 'looking' or Googling symptoms for information, I do know that reading scholarly articles or NIH articles are helpful.
Sometimes while I am waiting for Rich to get up if I am not at CrossFit, I will do some 'heavy' reading on Strokes, COPD, Mental Health, and other issues that seem front and center in our lives.

While looking up Apathy in Stroke survivors, I stumbled on another word. Abulia.
Now we have been seeing Rich's psychiatric doctor nearly every two weeks. Dr S. really was amazing in helping Rich get out of his last horrible MDD, Major Depression.
However, I think depression is not the only thing affecting him at all. Last year he had an extensive Neurological exam done with two Neurologist and Behavior Specialists.

Here is where Neurology meets Psychology. They actually blend in this case as Rich suffers MDD [Major Depressive Disorder] which was helped earlier this year and we had a much better summer thanks to Dr. S. But blend in all the medial issues along with the Brain Damage and the ongoing progression of Brain Damage and what do we have? Apathy? MDD? PTSD? Brain Slippage?

We still can discuss certain subjects that are near and dear to him. But the year of endless TV watching has now stopped. And I mean stopped cold. In its place is a man who sits at the kitchen table and stares out the window or stares at the kitchen table for very long periods of time without speaking or moving.

I do engage him in as much conversation as possible. I tell him about my workouts, the people I see at CrossFit, and sometimes read him news stories. He listens and responds but mostly he is silent.
Am I not pulling him outside and forcing him [rather unwillingly] to functions? He said his Pulmonary Therapy was okay. But now he can't do it. Can't.

Some days I feel like someone dumped me in a deep pool of water and the harder I swim to get out of the pool ... the further away those pool edges move.
Yesterday I went out after CrossFit to a coffee shop with a pal from CrossFit. We sat and just chatted. She chatted a lot. Her parents are elderly and I think she had a few things that she needed to get off her chest. I have learned to sit and be quiet and not turn around and complain about my issues when someone needs to unload.

I found our hour sitting there watching people walk by on the street and sipping coffee to be extremely relaxing. I dreaded going home to the silent man who would either be in bed or sitting and staring off into nothing.

I feel if I could just push him somehow, I could make him better. But in reality, I can't.

So what is going on? Med changes don't work. Ever since his stroke, Rich reacts violently to most medications. His latest new med for depression was interesting and frightening. He had some rather nasty reactions.

Winter is his worst time of the year anyway. I hate the thought of going through months of MDD again. It is like living in a life sucking hole of blackness.

That is why I work out. That is why I hike. I need to preserve sense of self.

But what of him? What is Abulia?

Apathy, Disinterest, Passivity, Lack of Opinion, Asocial, Extremely quiet or mute, Emotionally remote, Indecisive, ...the list goes on.
Depression meds do not work with Abulia.

It is a neurological/brain issue. I don't know, but I am grasping at straws because, if YOU can name something maybe you can work with it?

Anyway, I messaged Dr. S to ask him about this. Maybe just treating these issues as depression issues isn't the answer. Maybe we are all barking up the wrong tree.
there is no good answer because who the heck knows what really is going on in a brain that has damage?

Will I get used to this changing person who sits mutely at the table?
Can I adjust to him sleeping all day and awake most of the night? He sits in the dark and ... well I have no idea what is going on.

We meet with a Neurosurgeon on Thursday to see what the latest MRI of his brain shows.

I'm tired today. But I have so much yet to do.

This should have gone under the blog The Long Road, but I'm putting it here, as this is part of my daily routine as a CareGiver.

Monday, December 16, 2019

More Olympus Stuff

This should give you some ideas of the details that I can get with the TG6. It requires some maneuvering about on the ground, but it is easier than using a larger camera. I could try it with my regular DSLR Olympus and the macro lens, but being able to go into microscope mode is pretty fun.

It was still pretty dark in the creek bottom when I took these shots so they are a bit 'noisy'. Still, I can live with that because it is so fascinating to see the frost this close!

Perhaps they would have turned out better if I'd had the little LED light attached to the front of the camera. Well. I can always try that again!

Meanwhile, these next few shots were taken last week during the big freeze. I just never got around to posting them.

Olympus OMD EM Mark iii with a kit lens 14mm-150mm
It is sort of an all around lens that can take the wide angle and use a zoom also. It cuts down on the amount of 'gear' I take along with me. It is the camera on the right below.

I do have a macro lens for this camera, but getting those shots under the leaves are nearly impossible unless I dig a hole in the rocks next to the leaves.

The above shots were taken with a Neutral Density Filter and I used a tripod for the long exposures.
When we have a real hard cold snap, I love going out and finding the ice that gathers on twigs, grasses, and roots along the creek.

I need some more time with the TG6 to work out how best to use it on hikes. I certainly won't be taking super long exposures like the ones above.

One more cool and awesome thing. I can remotely operate either camera with an Olympus Share app on my Smarty Phone. It eats up battery quickly on both the phone and the camera. But it is fun to use in certain instances.

One last shot and then I am caught up. On that very cold hike, I took my little point and shoot infrared Canon ELPH camera.
Infrared is not as awesome in the winter. However, you still can get some interesting shots.

Well that was a mish-mash of 'stuff'.
But there you go.

I do like experimenting in photography. It gets me out of the house and keeps me moving right along. All of these photos are within 30 minutes of walking trails around where we live.

I am very lucky aren't I?