Photo Friday: Urban wildlife in Spring Hill

One of my favorite things about the City of Pittsburgh is how much green space we have, especially up in the hillier neighborhoods. We have a resident herd of deer we see at least once a week while we’re out walking, a nesting pair of hawks that probably had some babies this year (they were guarding their nest something fierce!), at least a few species of snakes, and new this year, a ton of monarch butterflies!

Here are a few photos I’ve taken throughout the summer. They’re not the highest quality because I used my cell phone, but they give you an idea of the animal friends who live on the hill with us.

Three bucks.

Our three bucks. There’s a fourth baby buck hiding just out of frame.

 

monarch caterpillar on milkweed

A monarch caterpillar chomping away at the milkweed I planted last year. I saw a monarch flying around my yard a few days ago–maybe it was the same one! I have yet to snag a successful photo of a monarch butterfly, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve also seen some tiger swallowtails and a few smaller species hanging around.

 

a German shepherd with a big blue ball

It’s the rare German shepherd dog! Okay, so Jaina isn’t exactly wild life, but how could I not throw in a photo of her?

 

He’s pretty hard to make out, but this is what I believe to be a baby milk snake! We encountered him on a walk a few days ago. It was already dark, and his camouflage was in full effect, but we had the power of a flash light on our side. Milk snakes are great because they eat insects when they’re young and rodents when they are older. You can’t tell from this photo, but his markings were bright red.

#PhotoFriday: Clematis in full bloom

Growing up, my mom had a purple clematis in our front yard. Every year it would grow up our porch railing. Along with the johnny jump-ups that popped up every spring, the clematis was my favorite flower.

When I rented my first house, I bought a clematis bulb and grew it in a pot for a few years. It did okay, and I transplanted it to my yard when we bought our house. It’s grown exponentially over the past three years! It’s now a very happy plant, and every spring when it blooms it reminds me of home.

a purple clematis vine

What flowers or plants remind you of home?

Miss Migraine: Bleeding for Star Wars (literally) and unavoidable convention migraine triggers

Banner that says "The Adventures of Miss Migraine"

The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on August 28, 2012.

After four days of nonstop Star Wars awesomeness at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida, I’m not even remotely ready to resume “normal” life or start classes (which happens tonight — I’ve even got a little bit of homework I need to do…). This was my fifth Star Wars Celebration convention, and like all the others before this one, the warm, open fan community inspired me creatively and personally.

The Star Wars fan community isn’t just about watching movies, reading books, and collecting action figures. We build life-size snow speeders, make movie- and comic- accurate costumes, build amazing LEGO sculptures of our favorite characters, create giant dioramas, write radio plays, make up new story lines, and so, so much more. We are active, engaged, and talented, and we have fun.

Celebration VI Jawa tattooine

Tattooine is hot and bright!

Although my head pain never went away completely, and I did have to take a painkiller the first day of the convention, I believe being engaged, active, and inspired is an incredible migraine analgesic. My brain was releasing so many endorphins that the pain, while present, seemed almost irrelevant. Either that, or being at Star Wars conventions gives me Force powers and I was able to temporarily heal myself.

Although the celebrity panel with actor Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine / the Emperor) was easily my favorite panel, waiting for anything at the main stage was somewhat of a trial. During the panel pre-shows, they played incredibly loud music and shone incredibly bright lights into the audience. I didn’t bring earplugs, because I’ve never needed them at a convention before, and normally the lighting is so poor as to eliminate any possibility of decent photography. I basically had to put my jacket over my face and plug my ears with my fingers to avoid an instantaneous migraine, but seeing the actual panels made it worth the effort. Still, I will probably send an email to the convention organizers mentioning the problem this caused me. I imagine it’s something they never thought about.

Star Wars bantha tattoo

I got this bantha tattoo on Sunday at the convention. Art by Jason Leigh. It hurt like a bitch, but at least it distracted me from my head!

This was Ian McDiarmid’s first convention appearance, and he shared a wealth of behind the scenes stories about filming Return of the Jedi (it took four to five hours to put his makeup on, and he got the part because the original actor couldn’t wear the yellow contacts). He was witty and smart (in response to an attendee’s wish that he be knighted, he responded, “You don’t need the knighthood when you have an Imperial crown.”).

At one panel, I also had to switch seats with my husband, because the person I sat next to had on enough cologne on to stun a gundark. And it was that heavy musky perfumey stuff that I can’t stand the smell of to begin with, not to mention the fact that any strong smells will give me a headache after about one minute.

Airplanes also give me migraines. It’s something about the cabin pressure, or the recycled air. I’m not sure. I can feel the pressure in my sinuses start to build up, which makes my face hurt, and before I know it, one of my temples starts throbbing. The flight home was fine, thankfully, but the flights to Orlando were incredibly painful. My husband got a migraine on the plane, too. But, unfortunately, there’s really nothing we could do about it except take drugs, use our aromatherapy products, cover our eyes and wait it out. Thankfully once we landed we both felt much better.

This was the first convention or Star Wars event where I’ve injured myself, and I must say I’m proud of my “battle wounds.” I fell and scraped up both my knees during the Bounty Hunt, a scavenger hunt where participants solve clues and search for “targets.” I wasn’t the only person who fell, but at least I had the excuse of running in a dress — no easy task.

Now I’m going to see if those Force powers will extend to homework and/or the errands I need to run today…