Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

August 3, 2013

Butterflies and Memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 10:24 am
Tags: , , ,

pipevine swallowtail
This is a post that has been bumping around in my mind for a few months, but I was never sure about wanting to write it. Perhaps I am far enough away from the events now to be able to write it, and perhaps it was this little nudging from Dawn this morning that caused me to want to write it today.

As many of you may remember, I work in a middle school as a paraprofessional with sixth grade students. Three years ago, I had a charming girl who had battled leukemia as a young child as a student. I don’t remember how many years her cancer had been in remission by the time she came to us as a happy and sweet 11 year old girl.

Near the end of her sixth grade year, she came to school on several days complaining just a little about some pain in her leg. Sixth graders, I can tell you, change an awful lot during this year of school. “You must be having growing pains!” many people said to her. And she certainly was growing into a lovely young lady.

When we returned to school after our summer break, we heard the sad news that Brielle’s cancer had returned, this time in the bones of her leg. She would be unable to start the school year in 7th grade due to her surgeries and chemotherapy.

Near the end of her 7th grade year, Brielle made some appearances in school. As co-advisor to the student council, we made the decision to dedicate that year’s student-faculty basketball game to Brielle, with all proceeds going to Brielle’s Brigade, a team of cyclists started by Brielle’s uncle who ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge and donate all funds generated to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
[SIDE NOTE: I did not realize that this year's Pan-Mass Challenge was taking place this weekend when I began writing this post. The cyclists ride today from Sturbridge MA to Bourne MA, then from Bourne to Provincetown tomorrow. I guess something out there was really nudging me to write today.]
Students and teachers wore t-shirts in purple, her signature color and decorated in butterflies, which had come to be known as her symbol in her battle against cancer. Brielle made an appearance at the basketball game, on a walker, and was received with thunderous applause.

Near the end of the school year, Brielle started coming to school for a few hours a day, with the help of an aide and sometimes a wheelchair. She wore brightly colored bandanas, often purple, on her hairless head and proudly showed off the scars on her leg from her surgeries. One day, a day I will always remember, Brielle found me and the special education teacher that I work with in the school library. She sat and talked with us and told us about her surgeries and recovery and her summer plans.

Only a few days before school was to begin again in what would have been Brielle’s 8th grade year, we received the very sad news that she had lost her courageous battle. The bone cancer had spread to her lungs.

When my student council co-advisor and I met to make plans for the school year, we both felt strongly that we would like to do something to honor Brielle’s memory. Our school principal came to us to tell us of the local Girl Scouts’ plan to create a memory garden in our school’s courtyard, and would the student council be willing to lend a hand in fundraising and planning?

We jumped in right away and successfully fundraised. Later in the spring, my co-advisor and I found ourselves handling much of the planning and designing of the garden. With the help of our student council and the local girls scouts, we cleared away a very overgrown area of the court yard, planted new plants such as butterfly bushes and bleeding hearts, added statuary and decoration and arranged for the donation of memorial stepping stones.
This is what the finished garden looks like:
memory

One warm afternoon, after I had spent a good amount of time working on the garden and was feeling quite dirty and tired, I was walking back to my car, carrying my garden tools. At that moment, a single butterfly flew quite close to my face and fluttered in a circle around me. I watched it fly away, and felt quite certain I had been visited by Brielle’s spirit.
transluscent tiger swallowtail

I’m sitting here now, brushing away a few tears, as I get ready to hit that “publish” button. Maybe I’m not as far from these events as I thought I was. If anyone who knew Brielle happens to find their way to this blog, I hope you will find this post to be an appropriate and respectful honor to her memory.

July 29, 2013

State of My Year

WordPress’s Daily Prompt today says to “Write up a mid-year “State of My Year” post.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us NOW.”

I’ve been receiving the Daily Prompt in my email for quite a long time now and often thought the idea presented sounded interesting to blog about, but I’ve rarely participated for no good reason other than being busy with other things or just being distracted by daily life. I was thinking I’d like to write a blog post today but wasn’t sure how to collect my thoughts. The prompt arrived in my email and seemed like an interesting “take stock” idea. The prompt calls it “mid-year” – it is the end of July, that’s really a bit past mid-year, isn’t it? It is also just a little past the mid-point of summer vacation from school too, so here’s where things are at for me.

Anticipation for Meghan’s move to campus has begun. We’ve been out shopping for dorm supplies.
dorm supplies
Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Christmas Tree Shops have all provided us with some great deals and bargains to get her set up in the place she will live for 9 months starting on August 22nd. It is exciting and scary and happy and sad all at once. My stomach does flip-flops whenever I think about it.

My garden seems to be doing nicely. I’m pretty much keeping up with the weeding this year.
garden mid-summer
Those piles to the right of center are weeds I’ve pulled and hoed and raked, but I just haven’t removed from the garden yet. I’ve harvested some of nearly everything I’ve planted this year, including tomatoes.
garden harvest
I’m not used to having tomatoes until mid-August, so those early girls were a nice treat.

The butterfly bushes are in full bloom and the swallowtails and hummingbird moths have returned to drink their fill of nectar.
tiger swallowtail

hummingbird moth

Other plants surrounding my deck, I’m ashamed to admit, have not fared so well. During the intense heat wave most of the country endured a little over a week ago, I spent little time outside and forgot about my poor little potted plants needing water!
oops forgot to water them
Oops! I’ve never been so neglectful. I killed every one of my potted annuals, except for this mini-rose the girls gave me for Mother’s Day.
mini-rose
It was lucky enough to be planted in a “self-watering” container with a little reservoir in the bottom of the pot, so it survived. Maybe I should look for a few more of those containers, huh?

looks ok
Ah, the pool. It has been both a blessing and a thorn in my side this summer. I told you in this post about the liner tearing and needing replacing. Then, I explained here what happened when we did replace it. Since then, hoses have sprung leaks and needed replacing and parts have come loose, unbeknownst to me at the time, and drained a couple hundred gallons of water from the pool. Then last night, as I was cleaning up from dinner, I noticed the lights in the house were flickering. I looked around trying to figure out if there was a brown-out going on, when smoke billowing up from my backyard caught my eye! At that moment, a small burst of flame appeared in the area of the pool’s filter. I ran outside, unplugged the filter and turned on the hose. The flame was gone, but this was discovered:
yikes
I have no idea why but the power cord to the filter shorted out and fried. Goody, yet another pool part that needs replacing this year. I do feel lucky, however, that the flame didn’t go anywhere and cause any other damage.

Before the smoking adventure with my pool, we had just returned home from our annual camping trip. This is a tradition 20+ years in the making which you can read about here if you are interested. I didn’t take any pictures this year on our trip to Tolland State Forest in Otis, Ma, except for this pretty great one of our whole group of campers, couples and families who have been friends since we were teenagers/young adults:
da gang
We were all pretty happy we made it through the weekend without a drop of rain. That isn’t usually the case for our camping trips! In fact, this past weekend had to be one of the nicest we’ve ever experienced while camping: sunny skies, pleasant temperatures and no humidity.

I am looking forward to the rest of what summer holds. My younger daughter turns 16 this week! Party and learner’s permit coming soon. Our annual vacation to Maine is less than two weeks away.

That’s the “now” of my life at this little-more-than-mid-point of the year. How is your “now”?

December 31, 2012

My Favorite Photos of 2012

Since I started blogging in 2010, I’ve done a wrap-up of my favorite photos of the year.  They aren’t always my more “technically” good photos, but photos I’ve come to enjoy for one reason or another.  I believe these photos have all appeared on the blog already this year, but that is because I am always anxious to share my favorites with you!  The photos that follow are in chronological order approximately one for each month of the year, but in one case I didn’t find anything I liked all that much in a month (February) and for April and July I couldn’t make up my mind between two shots, so you get them both for a baker’s dozen total.

In January, I was finally able to get a close-up shot of a Mr. Cardinal that made me happy:
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In March, I felt lucky to grab this shot of a soaring hawk, with feathers strongly defined:
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In April, I went on and on about one of my favorite vacations of all time, the cruise we took. Meghan and Sarah, first day on the ship and taken with my Blackberry, remains a favorite:
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There were so many beautiful sights from the cruise, but I wanted to share a shot that I love for its simplicity:
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The warm, turquoise Carribbean water brings me back to those precious days when there was little to worry about and happy memories were being made.

May brought me a picture of one of my favorite types of flowers, a bearded iris, that I was very pleased with how it came out. It was the header picture here on the blog until very recently:
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Ah, June! The end of the school year, the start of my favorite season. Yummy raspberries are a nice representation of the many good parts of summer.
fresh raspberries

July is the month when my butterfly bushes start going wild and bring many winged visitors. This monarch was one of my best butterfly shots this year:
King of butterflies

I just love this photo of Sarah from her birthday party. Her braces had been removed and her smile was big and genuine:
Sarah1

As part of a photo hunt that everyone really seemed to enjoy, the “Ends of the Earth”, I took this photo in August from our little mountain here in town:
mountain2

In September, my summer dreams faded away with the weather. This dahlia reminds me of the warmth of the afternoons that I continued to enjoy as long as I could:
Dahlias #2

October brought a blog-along walk over at Robin’s Life in the Bogs. I found myself doing some quiet contemplation while watching birds appear before my lens. I loved this sweet little chickadee:
chickadee

I was happily surprised to have the opportunity to photograph an eastern bluebird for the first time in November. It isn’t a wonderful photo, but I was thrilled with the chance to get this picture:
Eastern bluebird

How ironic that I spent December wishing for a gentle blanket of snow to take pretty pictures in and then ended up sharing this adventure with you just yesterday! (If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead, have a peek!) I still really like this picture of my new snowman ornaments, even if I could now do without the sentiment:
"Let it Snow" 2

Happy New Year everyone. I hope that 2013 brings you good health, and paraphrasing the words of a fellow blogger, enough of what you need most.

August 24, 2012

New Visitors

My butterfly bushes have been just humming with activity lately.  I mean that both figuratively and literally.  In the literal sense, the local hummingbirds and hummingbird moths have been getting their fill of nectar.  Figuratively, it is rare that I go out to the deck and not find something happily buzzing its way through the blossoms.  When I sit outside and read, I find myself distracted by the 5 or 6 little painted lady butterflies that have been making regular appearances.  I’m ashamed to admit I don’t have at least one picture of them, since I feel sure that I took some.  Oh, wait a second.  As I sit here and type, I am remembering that I changed memory cards recently, and that it is entirely possible that I never loaded the last few shots from the old memory card on to the computer.  Could it be?  Hang on a minute while I check it out, if you wouldn’t mind too much…

Eureka!
Painted Lady butterfly 1

A few days ago, I saw a butterfly I’d never seen on the bushes:
brown butterfly2

I’m having trouble identifying this one.  It doesn’t seem to quite match any of the butterflies I’ve found on various butterfly ID sites.  It has those blue markings like the swallowtails do, but it is not as dark or as large as the pipevine swallowtails I’ve seen in the past.  Here’s an upside-down pose that gives you a look at the underside of the wings:

brown butterfly1

Anybody with an idea about its secret identity?  While I went about taking multiple shots of my mystery butterfly, I found myself charmed by the misty look the light took on when the bushes were backlit by the late afternoon sun:
misty light butterfly

Today my abundant bushes were lucky to receive another newbie.  This one I was able to identify due to its very large size, certainly the largest butterfly I’ve seen outside of a butterfly conservatory, a giant swallowtail:

Giant Swallowtail3

I hope that the size of the blooms of a butterfly bush are known well enough to you to be able to conceive of the size of this butterfly. I was astounded to see these wings flopping around my deck.

Giant Swallowtail2

I’d say its wingspan was easily 6 inches. Here’s a look at the other side of the wings:
Giant Swallowtail1

I’ve definitely been enjoying these backyard visitors this summer.  Need some interesting winged creatures in your backyard?  Plant a butterfly bush!  And if you can help me identify my mystery butterfly, please let me know in the comments.

July 30, 2012

As Summer Wears On

Hard to believe it is nearly August.  Summer is passing too quickly!  A friend posted this on Facebook recently and I couldn’t agree more:

Four weeks from today I will be back in school, so I’m trying to remind myself to enjoy every moment.  Here are some moments I’ve recently enjoyed:

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We celebrated my younger daughter’s 15th birthday with family and friends.  Her actual birthday is this Thursday, so I can’t help thinking about how 15 years ago at this time I was so huge and uncomfortable.  It was a nasty hot summer – kind of like how it has been around here recently – and nothing I did seemed to feel better.  15 years ago!  Wow!

Then:

And now:

Sarah1

We got some much needed rain this past weekend – unfortunately during Sarah’s birthday party.  I think the absolute heaviest was exactly when my husband was cooking at the grill:

Police department issued rain gear came in really handy!  Photo credit to Meghan and her iPod – she was more on the ball that I was.

In the quiet moments between shopping and cleaning and otherwise preparing for the party, the butterfly bushes provided more photography opportunities.  A couple of yellow tiger swallowtails have been happily cavorting:

yellow swallowtail 1

yellow swallowtail 2

yellow swallowtail 3

I found this species very interesting too:
Butterfly Bush collie

I think its Latin name is “collius buddlejollius”   ;-) (okay who remembers that obscure reference from an earlier post?)

July has been pretty full of good summer fun – check my archives if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to – and August has plenty more to offer.  Meghan is going to have her senior portraits taken next week (YIKES!  I’m having a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that my older daughter will be a senior in high school in 4 weeks!  How the heck did that happen?) and our family vacation to Maine comes up in less than 2 weeks.  And don’t forget – the “Ends of the Earth” photo hunt is in August too.

July 22, 2012

Things with Wings

When Scott Thomas recently commented on my “Camping Critters” post about how my ruffled grouse appeared to be moving quickly, I was inspired about what to shoot for his assignment this month about motion photography.

The hummingbird moths have reappeared at the butterfly bushes and their tiny wings are always in rapid motion:
hummingbird moth

hummingbird moth

The monarch butterflies are always in frenetic motion around the yard and bushes.  I tried to capture a crazy escapade of a monarch around my yard, but the photos didn’t portray motion all that well to me.  Here it is when it finally came to rest on a bloom, but with wings still ready to go:

monarch1

While I was watching the butterfly bushes yesterday, so full of frantic motion of moths and bees and butterflies, I heard that tell-tale call of a raptor up above.  It is a different view of motion:

hawk1

Remember my “conducting duck” from the Camping Critters post? I realized that another shot that I took of him or her had another view of motion:
duck3

This is my submission to Scott’s motion assignment.  There is still time to get involved in this assignment if you would like – posts aren’t due until Wednesday, the 25th at midnight your time.

July 10, 2012

A Few Firsts of the Summer Season

Filed under: What's Blooming — Karma @ 9:47 am
Tags: , , , ,

Summer, summer, summer; I love it so.  And not just because I still have 7 more weeks before I have to go back to work!  The days are long and seem to pass slowly with no particular place to be.  It is warm and green and lush.  Some of my favorite things about summer are also starting to appear around me, a bit early I believe.

On July 4th, I harvested my first cucumber and summer squash from my garden.
first harvest

Zucchini quickly followed and I already have a few over-sized specimen.  Meghan and I ate the first zucchini like this:

Breaded and shallow-fried, delicious.

Like many flowers in my yard and gardens, my daylilies seem to make later appearances than others I’ve seen around town.  My first opened on July 5th this year.

first daylily

And now that the butterfly bushes are in full bloom, the butterflies have returned to my yard.  Surprisingly, the monarchs were the first I saw this year.

First monarch spotting

King of butterflies

The swallowtails, hummingbird moths and a great spangled frillitary have all made subsequent appearances.

Another of my favorites of the summer season happens this weekend – the annual camping trip.  I know that camping is not for everyone, but you can read about what makes this tradition with my group of friends pretty great right here.

Now that the heat wave that has had so much of this county in its grips for a while has started to ease back, I hope you are getting out and enjoying summer too.

April 23, 2012

It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere…

That seems to be a theme around Key West, which was our first stop on our cruise.  Jimmy Buffett, I think, spent several years living in Key West.  His orginal  “Margaritavilla Cafe” is in Key West and the slogan “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” appears in many places.  Our stop in Key West was brief, but there was plenty of time to get a feel for the beauty and make some fun discoveries about this southernmost piece of the continental USA.  He actually originally recorded this song with Alan Jackson in Key West:

I even bought a sparkly t-shirt with that written on it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Our boat docked early in Key West, and most folks had breakfast while in port, except for the person who fell victim to the southern version of a sea gull (not sure what their official name is):
gulls2

This person was silly enough to put her breakfast down at an outside table, then go back to the buffet for a beverage.  Those of us in view of the windows saw the gull help itself to pancakes, sausage and anything else on that plate!

While waiting for my family to be ready to go ashore in Key West, I took some pictures of the beautiful port.

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keywest1

Once we were ashore, this was the first time I was able to get the full wide view of our ship.

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We spent some time scouring the shops for souvenirs,

keywest2

enjoying the tropical warmth and flowers,
kwflower2

learning facts that were new to me,
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rt1
(Did you know that US Route 1 travels up the entire east coast of this country? I’ve travelled on it in Maine. I had no idea it continued all the way through the Keys!)

and visiting the southernmost point of the continental U.S.A.
southpoint
There were a lot of tourists standing in line here to have their picture taken with this monument; I opted not to, and instead stood on this jetty just around the corner:
kw2

This house is the southernmost home in the USA (they make a big deal about this “southernmost” business in Key West!)
southern

There was some unusual “artwork” in Key West too:
keywestdude

We made one more fun stop on this island:

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Yes that’s Sarah being a really good sport for her mom!
Since this post is already so photo-heavy, I thought I’d put a few of my favorites from the conservatory into a slideshow. Interestingly, the birds were more cooperative this day than the butterflies!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to Key West!  I definitely did!

August 8, 2011

I ♥ Summer!

sunny sunflowers (2)

I love summer.  I’m pretty sure I’ve stated this previously on the blog, but it is worth repeating.  It isn’t just because I am a teachers’ aide and I have summers off (although that’s a great part of it!)  I love all that summer brings.   Maybe I wouldn’t be saying this if I had to endure Michaela’s temperatures, but I love days in the 80′s and 90′s (and will even take the humidity if I must) so much more than days in the teens, 20′s and 30′s.

The butterflies have returned to my butterfly bush:

Eastern black swallowtail

Summer birthdays…
Cake!

…with a nice, easy, backyard BBQ and pool party.

My favorite summer treat is starting to ripen:
first tomatoes

There is nothing like the first bite of tomato straight out of your garden.

I also recently managed my first picture of the local falcon or hawk or whatever s/he is:
falcon or hawk?

My guesses for this bird are peregrine falcon or cooper’s hawk.  Any thoughts?

And okay, this really has nothing to do with summertime, except for the fact that time off allowed me to finish this quickly for a dear friend (our dance teacher) who recently had a baby girl:
quilt by me

And my most favorite part of summer?  My one week vacation to the beach with my family:
Welcome to Hills Beach

Just the four of us will head up this Saturday to the same cottage at the shore that we rented last year:

IMG_0662

No worries for a week, freedom from the “should be’s” - my favorite week of the whole year.  I just can’t wait!

What do you love best about summer?

September 28, 2010

A Lovely Autumn Day, part 2

Filed under: Photo assignments,Travel — Karma @ 11:19 pm
Tags: ,

signcrop

Just down the road from Quonquont Farm is the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory.  I hadn’t been for several years, and I was looking forward to getting in there with my new camera and seeing what I could get for shots.  It proved to be more difficult than I expected.  The  light indoors in this place didn’t really allow for the super-fast shutter speeds I would have liked to use to take in all the gorgeous butterflies floating frenetically around the huge greenhouse.  I had to catch them mostly at rest.  One person who had no trouble at all finding butterflies at rest was my husband.  Remember the little teaser from yesterday?

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This particular type of butterfly, which we learned was a rice paper butterfly, were attracted to my husband like dogs are attracted to stink!  We thought it had to be from the apple-smushing incident in the orchard – perhaps he had sprayed himself with sweet smelling apple juice and those butterflies were licking it up!  I left him several times to photograph other butterflies, each time I returned it seemed he had more clinging to him.  He said he counted nine at one point!  Doesn’t he look like Hermes, the winged messenger in that shot with his sandals?

Meghan wasn’t quite as successful at getting one to land on her, so she “borrowed” one from her dad for this shot:
IMG_1549

Funny story about this picture: As I was taking the picture, another very colorful butterfly dive-bombed the shot, creating a blur of red and green across Meghan’s hair and neck.  I tried my darnedest to photoshop it out because I really liked this picture, but nothing I did looked right.  So I turned to an expert – someone who actually thinks photoshopping is fun!  Brian of FS Photography did a beautiful job fixing this up so that, in his words, you’d never know that there was a “camera hogging butterfly sneaking into the shot.”  Have a look over at Brian’s page if you haven’t recently – he just had some photos published in actual magazines!  Congrats, and thank you again, Brian!  I’ll post the original if anyone is interested in seeing what he was able to get rid of for me.  You know, I think I might like this shot of Meghan even better than the one I did for my portraiture assignment for Scott’s blog. 

On to the butterflies that I did manage to chase down for some pictures.  There were so many different varieties I really can’t remember their names, except for this first one, the blue morpho.  These beauties never stopped, and  I think the only reason I was able to get this picture, is because it is obviously an older, worse-for-wear butterfly.
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I think that one above is called an “owl” butterfly.

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I know this one’s a bit blurred, but I just loved the color, and it was the closest I came to stopping any action. 

In addition to all the butterflies, Magic Wings is also home to some other interesting creatures:
IMG_1542

This is Akbar, the parrot.  In addition, there was also a variety of lizards, koi fish, tortoises, and some adorable little quail who ran freely around the place.  My pictures of them did not turn out well.

It was quite the lovely autumn day.  Ready to plan a fall road trip to my little corner of the world?  Let me know, maybe we can go take pictures together! :-)

ETA: Michaela requested a look at the “before” picture of Meghan:

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