I ride…

I ride…

when i wake to the heat of morning
galloping down the highway of my life
something hopeful rises in me
rises and runs me out into the road
… and i ride

adapted from Lucille Clifton, Hag Riding

 

Where to begin this post? No words feel right this week. Today, musician Kris Delmhorst wrote “our country seems to be in the midst of a desperate fight for its very soul” — and her words resonated deeply. Although I keep political references out of my posts, I feel I’m on respectful ground to share I’ve been fighting to keep from despair much of the past year. The topics of conversation, and the lack of respect and civility that grab much of our attention these days, have regularly led me to disconnect from the news and social media. For me, it has been tough to find the appropriate and responsible balance – between staying connected, remaining involved, working on even a small level to bring about change and the desire to disconnect out of feeling overwhelmed. And yet ultimately I come back to that sense of responsibility and my belief that all of the blessings I’ve received throughout my life require me to stay engaged and find ways – even small ways – of ensuring those blessings are shared by individuals of all backgrounds, races, religions, orientations, and abilities.

One of my teachers from Loyola, Fr. Kevin Gillespie, often shared the words “where there is story, there is hope.” Some stories are too painful to tell, and some stories aren’t ready to be told. Yet when we are ready, and once we begin to tell our stories, we open ourselves to the possibility for healing. This was most often discussed at a personal level, and yet these last several days I’ve continued to wonder where we will create possibilities for healing in our country.

….

I have only a few birding updates –

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An all-electric bike arrived last week, from Outrider USA in Fletcher, NC. I first discovered the Outrider team and the idea of the Horizon bike in 2014. And by chance, I had the opportunity to bid on one of these bikes offered through auction by the FSH Society in April of this year. This bike will certainly help me live boldly this year. When the time is right, I’ll share more about my adventures with this bike and how it might take me to less-accessible birding locations.

My birding the last few weeks has been filled with discoveries as well as disappointments and frustrations as I’ve encountered a greater number of trips and locations that are not accessible. And yet, I keep finding the silver linings… here are a few pictures from recent outings:

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And here are a few pictures from home — the busy hummingbirds, a sun/dust bathing young Brown Thrasher, a Mourning Dove waiting for a turn at the favorite dust bath spot, and a Carolina Wren who visits the back deck daily for a bath, several songs, and to check out each of the planters for a tasty morsel…

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Finally, while at Kennedy Krieger/Johns Hopkins last Friday I discovered the labyrinth within the healing garden. What a wonderful surprise! This labyrinth appeared to be in the shape of a question mark, which has served as a reminder to “live everything. Live the questions now…” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

With hope and blessings…

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Catching up after a summer lull…

Catching up after a summer lull…

It has been a while since I’ve posted… perhaps just a summer lull, however I’ve felt I’ve been out of words. I’m now past the mid-way point of this ‘big year’, and when I slow down and think about what I’m doing these days, I truly have no words. Only feelings of deep, deep gratitude and joy.

It was last summer, just about this time, when I began feeling that stirring from within urging me to get back out and live more fully. And I’m now doing that. In addition to enjoying daily time with the birds at home, I’m out birding several days each week.

One recent highlight was a drive to Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County, MD to look for Terns and Cormorants. This was the most adventurous I’ve been with the new van and scooter… and here is one view from the end of a dock. I only hesitated a moment, wondering whether I’d have enough room/skill to back up or turn around. One boat owner, a proud Naval Academy parent, noticed my brief hesitation and quietly said “you’ve got room…”

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Here are a few pictures from that trip:

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I’ve also been out regularly in neighboring Montgomery County, MD.

Here are a few pictures from both the Oaks Landfill (yes, I have now done an often joked about birding thing and visited an old landfill to see birds) and the Blue Mash trail around the perimeter of the landfill. I was particularly grateful for the opportunity to join Montgomery Bird club members during the Oaks Landfill trip, as there were great birds to see and friendly birders meet. In the weeks since this trip, I’ve continued to feel hopeful that something good, a wildlife sanctuary, has been created over the landfill, yet also sad thinking of all the resources we humans use and discard, most often leaving only our remainders for wildlife.

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And lastly, here are a few pictures from Little Bennett Regional Park, just around the corner from home, yet full of new discoveries for me this year.

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The picture below is of a Louisiana Waterthrush, the most recent new bird I’ve spotted for the year, #165.

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One of my hopes for the year that I hadn’t often spoken about was my hope to see an owl in the wild. I hear both Barred and Eastern Screech Owls regularly at home, however I had never seen an owl in the wild.

This past Thursday afternoon, a large bird flying through the trees at Little Bennett caught my eye. The moment I realized what I just spotted was an owl (!!!), and that same moment I realized that Barred Owl had spotted me, was one of the most exciting birding experiences I’ve ever had.

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I want to bring this post to a close by acknowledging the kindness of strangers. I still surprise myself, that I can become so focused on birding and being back out enjoying activities I thought were no longer accessible to me, that I can forget to feel self-conscious about being out with a walker or moving around on a scooter.

Some days I don’t want to put on my brave face, and go out into the world as an individual with wounds and weaknesses exposed. Yet somehow I just get moving and do it, and then find it really is ok.

As I’m learning to do this, as I’m finding my way, the kindness of strangers means so much. That quiet “you’ve got room” from the dock; a hiker making eye contact rather than looking away; a fellow birder pausing to ask what I’ve spotted or to offer guidance on where I might look or listen next; a trip leader encouraging me to be brave and set off on an adventure. And my dearest, bravest friends who come along on this journey. I am grateful. xoxo

This

Sky

Where we live

Is no place to lose your wings

So love, love,

Love.

Hafiz

Gratitude… and Hawk Banding

Gratitude… and Hawk Banding

My heart is full of love and gratitude. Thank you for taking time out of your Tuesday and giving FSH Muscular Dystrophy some of your attention. Thank you for checking out my blog posts, and liking, commenting, and sharing posts on Facebook. Thank you for taking time to offer a smile to a stranger 🙂 And, thank you for continuing to join me on this journey…

Last Tuesday’s post received more than 400 views from 22 countries. Wow.

One of my goals for the year was to raise awareness of FSH Muscular Dystrophy. Together, on Tuesday, we made tremendous progress towards meeting that goal. Together, we will #CureFSHD.

And now back to those bird pictures I promised…

A week ago Saturday I had the opportunity to observe hawk banding at three Coopers Hawk nests. This experience will remain one of the highlights of my birding year.

Here are a few facts I learned:

Why band: bird banding is an “indispensable technique for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds”*(1)

Timing: timing is everything, and for these little ones there was a small window of opportunity for banding. If the hawks were too young, as they were in one of the three nests, they were too young to band. And perhaps just a week later, hawks at the other two nests might have been too old to band due to risk of early fledging.

What about the parents: One myth to address is that banding will cause the parents to abandon their offspring. This just isn’t so. In fact, parents most often promptly return to feed their little ones – sometimes even before the bander returns to the ground! During my day of observing the banding, perhaps the most impressive demonstration of this was watching the first nest, as mama hawk kept a close eye on what was going on, circling and flying between the row of trees surrounding the nest and another nearby tree. Shortly after the banding was finished, she returned to the nest and was observed feeding her little ones.

The importance of reporting: “The value of banding data is only fully realized when banded birds are recovered and band numbers reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory”*(2)

To learn more about bird banding, please visit… *(1) https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBl/homepage/aboutbanding.cfm or *(2) https://www.fws.gov/birds/surveys-and-data/bird-banding.php

For information about reporting a found banded bird, please visit https://www.fws.gov/birds/surveys-and-data/bird-banding/reporting-banded-birds.php or https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/bblretrv/index.cfm

Here are several of my favorite pictures from the day…

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A little one, curious about who is arriving at the nest (60+ feet up in a tree!)…

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that same little one attempting to look fierce…

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I received many requests this week for an update on my progress for the year. I’m pleased to share I enjoyed great views and lots of songs from several Dickcissel this week, bird species #150 of 2017. 🙂

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With gratitude,
Deb xoxo

World FSHD Day, Tuesday, June 20th #WorldFSHDday

World FSHD Day, Tuesday, June 20th #WorldFSHDday

No, not a bird… however I have some amazing bird pictures from the weekend that I will post very soon.

For now, I want to join with others in raising awareness of FSH Muscular Dystrophy on #WorldFSHDday

To learn more about FSH Muscular Dystrophy, as well as why I am holding an orange slice, please visit https://www.fshsociety.org/

And above all else, please practice random acts of smiling on Tuesday, June 20th. Goodness knows our world needs these reminders of kindness and connection. 

Most individuals with FSHD lose the ability to smile… including me. So on Tuesday, June 20th, please offer an extra smile to a stranger on my behalf…

With kindness and blessings,
Deb xoxo

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Feeling very blessed to have this wonderful, supportive family…

 

and even more love and support from a special aunt… I’m feeling so loved and blessed xoxo

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Mamas and little ones…

Mamas and little ones…

Instructions for living a life:

Pay Attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Mary Oliver, in Sometimes

The last couple of weeks have been filled with little ones fledging, and the mothers who care for them.

I have been completely astonished, captivated really, by this little Downy Woodpecker who has been a constant visitor to the bubbling (water) rock and the suet feeders. I was concerned at first, because she was spending so much carefree time out in the open (oh the hawks!!), and her first several attempts to reach the suet feeder resulted in slides down the pole much like a fireman. Yet her Mama has been ever attentive, and has been carefully feeding this little one, who now looks confident in flight and seems to eat her weight in suet each day.

Have I mentioned the birds have been going through two suet cakes each day!!?? 😉

I should add that although I refer to this little one as ‘she’, I’m really not sure about that. Juvenile Downies have a red cap, and ‘her’ cap is significantly less red and begins further back then another recently fledged little one, so I’ve come to think of this fledgling as a ‘she’.

Here is the one who visits for long periods each day:

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and with her Mama

and now, one week later, confidently flying from a nearby tree

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although I do wish she would select one of the already dead trees, rather than one of the healthy ones, to practice her woodpecker skills 🙂

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For comparison, here is Papa with another fledgling

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There have been other youngsters as well, including this Northern Cardinal with a great hairdo…DSCN9296

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And a Mama Wood Duck with her little ones…

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This past week also included a return visit to northern Frederick County for more looks at the Red-Headed Woodpeckers. They are so beautiful to see!

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And lastly, as an oh so proud mama, I’m sending birthday wishes to another (no-longer-so) little one. It seems like just yesterday you fledged and found your wings. I love you with all my heart, my dear one. xoxo

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The Language of Disability

The Language of Disability

I’m thrilled (and honored) that links to my blog have been shared and people I haven’t (yet) met in person are following. Perhaps now is an appropriate point to share a few words about the blog title. I am often described as sensitive, occasionally as stubborn, and perhaps never as sassy. And calling myself Gimpy Girl sounds, well, a bit sassy.

Last September I actually registered two website names. I began with Honoring The Graces (honoringthegraces.com), that sounds so much like a name I would choose. Yet after sitting with that a while, I went back a registered this second site, Gimpy Girl Goes Birding. It sounded bolder. It clearly conveyed what I was about to do during this birding ‘big year’. And in many ways, it marked a transition for me. Even though I had lived a long time with one foot in the able-bodied world and the other foot in the disabled world, it still felt all too sudden when I found I was out of options to seamlessly fit into our mostly nondisabled world. For example, sheer determination and concentration were no longer enough to step up even the lowest step or curb without a railing. And getting up from ground level without assistance (whether the trip down was planned or unplanned 😉 ) was no longer possible.

Although this transition brought sadness and frustration, it eventually led to some sense of relief (then even later to determination and adventure). I could let go of trying with all my might to be something I’m not and never could be (a fully able-bodied person). This deeper level of acceptance led me to find new ways to move through this wonderful and often challenging world, reclaiming the energy previously expended attempting to keep up an able-bodied appearance and rediscovering sources of joy (such as a ‘hike’ through the mud!! 😀 )

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I believe the language used to describe disability is deeply personal (since ability and limitation are profoundly unique and personal experiences for each of us, I believe we should each have the freedom to choose language that feels most comfortable to describe our own circumstances at any given point)… and at this point in my journey, in choosing Gimpy Girl to name my own experience and transition, I credit the influence of writer Nancy Mairs who rejected the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ and instead chose to describe herself as ‘crippled’ – not only because of the term’s starkness and precision but also for it’s honesty and because she wished to be viewed as “one tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses [had] not been kind, but who [faced] the brutal truth of … existence squarely” (Plaintext, p. 9-10). Therefore, I chose the words Gimpy Girl (for myself, never for others) with the hope that I might move forward boldly, honestly facing this experience of changing ability, and keeping a sense of humor throughout it all. 🙂

And now on to some exciting bird discoveries…

As each birder begins a ‘big year’ he or she likely has a bird or two they most hope to see during the year – often a rare bird. My hope was more modest – not a rare species, yet one I had never seen (which would make it a ‘life’ bird) and a woodpecker found in the mid-Atlantic that I’ve never spotted on our property. The Red-headed Woodpecker. On Memorial Day, two new friends from the Frederick Bird Club set out with me with the hope of spotting one of these breathtakingly beautiful birds. And we were successful! Bird #145 of 2017.

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On that same outing we spotted a Bobolink

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A Grasshopper Sparrow

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As well as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (another one you’ll need to look up, as I didn’t have my camera close by at the time).

I’ve also been seeing lots of beautiful Great Crested Flycatchers – seen here preening at the end of the day.

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With gratitude and blessings,

Deb xoxo

Oh, the places I’ll go!

Oh, the places I’ll go!

Borrowing a few words from Dr. Seuss (with a few edits)…

 

Today is the day.
I’m off to Great Places!
I’m off and away!

I can steer myself
any direction I choose…

On Monday of this week I became the grateful owner of a minivan. With apologies to anyone reading who loves driving a minivan (I know you’re out there… I’ve spoken with a few of you) – I came to these wheels reluctantly. I considered all alternatives, and eventually accepted a minivan was the solution that would offer independence and a greater ability to get out and about.

 

The line “Oh, the places you’ll go” had been repeating in my head, and now “oh, the places I’m going” is my new reality 🙂

Thinking a bit of positive reinforcement might help my transition to a minivan, I drove straight from picking up the van to Pinecliff Park in Frederick. This Solitary Sandpiper (a new bird, #136 of the year) greeted me in the parking lot. A lovely gift from the universe.

And as I zipped around the park on my scooter (amazed at what I was suddenly doing without embarrassment when the rewards – independence and birds – were great enough), I discovered two additional new birds of the year:

a Gray-cheeked Thrush (an uncommon bird to spot)

as well as a Black-throated Blue Warbler (you’ll have to look this one up, as my pictures didn’t turn out well).

This van (a Honda Odyssey with a BraunAbility power fold-out ramp, that really is quite lovely) is already offering the independence and mobility I hoped for. I can now pick up and go at any time, without having to evaluate how much walking I’m up for, and without needing to ask others to load and unload the scooter. I’m feeling very blessed to be in a position where these mobility options are available to me. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and support from my parents that made this option a reality. I’m also grateful to have discovered a wonderful local mobility services company – the team at Total Mobility Services in Frederick (http://www.tmservices.com/locations/frederick) was great to work with… thanks Anne, Blaine, Dana, and Nancy 🙂

And the blessings continued with even more new birds…

During an early morning walk at the Fred Archibald Audubon Sanctuary in New Market, MD I spotted this handsome Scarlet Tanager

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and during the Global Big Day on May 13th, I was able to see 57 bird species within Frederick County, including several Eastern Kingbirds (sorry about the lack of focus in the picture)

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as well as a another less common bird, a Swainson’s Thrush

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