That Story I Intended to Finish

“The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.” – Anonymous


In early June I was at an event, and my friend K. H. asked me, “So, out of all of the things that you do, what’s your favorite?” I replied, “I wear a lot of hats, but I really have a true passion for writing.” Her response, “Wow. I didn’t even know you did that!” Well, that seems like a problem.

Writing is a problem. It’s a problematic passion because it requires the intentionality of creating space where an introverted self can escape, outside of work and family and everything else, to cohesively collect all thoughts and transfer them to a keyboard. And if you happen to insert a big project into your life unexpectedly, like I did for most of this spring, that intentional space ends up looking like a tiny little corner, where dust bunnies gather behind stacks of boxes, in a room that you rarely step foot in.

I heard a phenomenal concept this morning about how to keep a relationship strong. The idea was that it’s often necessary to contract one’s self in order to allow room for a partner to expand and thrive. It’s this continuous expansion and contraction, on the part of both parties, that keeps a relationship strong and balanced. That’s honestly great advice for how we should deal with ourselves. It’s imperative that we periodically contract certain facets of our lives in order to allow others to expand. Without an adherence to this balance, parts of us end up so egregiously swollen that we can do nothing but burst. All we are left with, then, is to gather up a bunch of messy pieces and attempt to reconstruct them back together into our whole selves. Sadly, the success rate on that project is pretty low.

So I’m thinking I might contract a few things for a bit in order to allow for a little expansion of my passion. But before I go giving myself a lot of credit here for intentionality and setting aside space, I should probably admit that I’m writing this in a waiting area, alongside hundreds of strangers, at the Texas Department of Public Safety. I’m here to renew my expired driver’s license, because that’s how I roll. Clearly my passion does not lie in the legal operation of motor vehicles, as I’ve been skirting the law for months. My wait number is S3273. They just called S3131. It’s times like these when a person like me says, “You know, while I’ve got time, I should write that thing about the moth.” (Saying that out loud suddenly confirms what I’ve always suspected. My nature is odd. LOL. I’m thinking the percentages are low on authoring articles about Lepidoptera while at the DMV.)

So, here goes.


Remember all the way back to the end of November? Yeah. I know. It’s a lifetime ago. If you read my blog post back then, you’ll recall the story of how I unearthed two Sphinx Moth pupae from our garden and placed them in Home Depot bucket habitats to ride out the winter. (See, I wasn’t kidding about that “odd nature” thing.) I’m sure many of you have been wondering, “What happened with that whole moth thing?” You’ve had nothing better to think about. Well, spring break came, and then Easter came, and then we hauled the buckets out into more direct sunlight (maybe that would do the trick), and then Cinco de Mayo came, and then Mother’s Day came and then…I kind-of started doubting. Nothing in nature has a 100% success rate. I know that. But, dang it, I wanted this to work!  I’ve hatched a ton of different butterflies in the past, Monarchs, Swallowtails (I have one preparing to pupate in a habitat right now), Gulf Fritillaries, but never a moth. And I wanted to see if my hypothesis was correct. Were the pupae that I saved, in fact, those of the Five-spotted Hawk Moth? (Now say that last sentence in your head through the voice of Morgan Freeman. It sounds WAY cooler.)

Finally, the last day of school arrived.  That was it. I mean, here we were at the precipice of summer and these guys were supposed to “emerge in spring.” That’s what all the sites said. I picked N. up from school and took him to his class swim party. As we were later walking from the garage to the house, him all water-logged from hours in the pool and me all brain-logged from my end-of-the-year “momming” requirements, I spotted a shadow under the netting of one of the buckets on the deck. I won’t lie. I might have pushed my kid out of the way to run to that bucket, and I might have screamed a little bit (it’s all such a blur), but THERE it was! A perfectly emerged moth. Everybody came to peer down into the net, like we were all admiring a newborn baby through that big glass window in the maternity ward. I told J. it was possibly one of the best things that had happened all year. It was as if everything was in balance. The perfect breath.


The moth had clearly just hatched. You could still see the hole in the soil where she had emerged. She was adjusting slowly, getting used to her new self. Her antennae were still tucked and her wings still dull, with little movement, but, after I lifted the netting, she happily climbed onto my finger into a comfortable perch.


Newly hatched butterflies and moths allow the best opportunity for detailed study. For one, they sit still, because they are working on pumping fluid into their wings and hardening them. Secondly, they haven’t been beaten up by the wind or had sections of their wings nipped by birds, so you can really see the vivid colors and patterns form as the wings take shape. This process can take a while, so the difficulty with moths is that they might not finish until it’s dark, and then you have a hard time seeing everything.

After cuddling the newborn for a while, it was time to release. We wanted to protect her from predators, as much as possible, so I placed her onto a section of our brick that blended nicely with her coloring. I left her for a bit, so as not to disturb too much of the process, but I had to know for sure. Did she have the spots?

As dusk approached, I decided to go back out. I carefully lifted her wings, just enough to peek at the abdomen (way too awkward and difficult to get a photo), and there they were…five yellow spots lining each side. Hypothesis confirmed!

It was now getting dark and time for tending to my real brood. We said our goodbyes. As I crawled into bed, later that night, I lay there thinking, “Hmmm. My day just ended. Hers is just beginning.”

The next morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and checked the patch of brick. She was gone. As I sipped my warm awakening, I thought about her first flight. I hoped it was a good one. I gave a heartfelt thank you to our vast universe for allowing me to be a part of that process, a present face at a birth that began, through intentionality, some six months earlier. That’s the thing about intentionality. Its implementation doesn’t always live in the same moment as its results. It often requires adding a square foot of space and a cup of time to yield fruit (or sometimes even an acre and a gallon).

Where does this leave us? The whole thing has ME pondering how I could convert a section of our yard into a moth garden. I mean, everyone plants butterfly gardens. You never hear anyone say, “You should stop by and look at my moth garden.” I mentioned the idea to J. He liked it. Maybe soon. Do we also call projects like that “creating intentional space?” I think so.


Wow. People are suddenly clapping in here. Awwww. Thanks, guys. It IS a pretty great story.

Oh, wait. Never mind.

That’s just ecstatic cheering for Jamie, our friendly DPS employee. She just rolled the number to S3200.



All the best,

A. J.


– All content photos by Amanda J. Schulz

2018 Review through the Lens: D6-D13

”When we build, let us think that we build forever.”

-John Ruskin

Boy…has this been a week. I don’t know if any of you feel like this right now, but it’s hard for me to tell if I’m coming or going. Every day has been packed, and this season always seems to culminate in a conundrum of my kids going off the rails coupled with the heightened anxiety of “getting everything done” and, oh yeah, I almost forgot, a little joy splashed on top.

As I’ve not been able to find any time to write over the past week, I’ve kind-of fallen behind on my December Photo Challenge. As someone who finds accomplishment and productivity comforting, I was feeling a little down about that. But I’m also that same someone who loves to pull the long thorn out of my side, punch a hole in the blunt end and, from that, create a needle to thread for use in a more purposeful way. So my slack over the past few days, I decided, has actually given rise to the opportunity to share some favorite photos that I was struggling with as I went back through my files.

Remember my spider from D2 of the Photo Challenge? Well, on that same lake trip I photographed this diligent little Titmouse, feverishly working to build a nest down inside one of the posts of our dock. This little bird literally worked on his project for hours, flying away and gathering items (from who knows where), returning back again and again to dive down into the hole. It was one of my favorite captures of the year, but I just couldn’t decide which single shot photo to post. Problem solved. Now I GET to post all 8 of my favorites so that you can see his entire process. Thorn…meet needle.

It got me to thinking, too. That’s what I’ve been doing this past week. That’s what we’re all doing…every week, every day, every minute, in almost everything that we do. If you are purposeful in life, you are building (just like my little friend here). When I meet with my son’s teacher about working to correct a behavior issue and we follow through with a plan, I’m building…building in him. When I teach my toddler how to peel the slices on an orange or top a pizza for the first time, I’m building…building in her. When I counsel someone who is struggling in a relationship, or I give someone a gift just to say “thank you,” or I pay for the person’s coffee in line behind me, or I take time to have lunch with my husband and just talk, or I volunteer teaching kids how to grow something in a garden, or I approach my clients with thoughtful advice, I’m building…building in all of them.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about how the reality is that 90% of my life isn’t even about me. That’s how we get off in the weeds as human beings. We live lives consumed with the lie that life is really about “us.” It’s not. It’s about the sticks and the twigs and the shreds of paper and the bits of fluff that we desposit here and there, along with the string that somehow ties something together within someone else. It’s when you begin to view yourself for the builder that you are, that you truly begin to live.

So press onward, my builder friends. Just keeping flying and collecting and depositing in the places and in the people that need you most. For, after all, life itself first begins with the nest.

All the best,

A. J.

All Content Photos by Amanda J. Schulz

[Check out Day 5 of the December Photo Challenge here.]

2018 Review through the Lens: D5

“I just need green. I need to wake up and see grass and squirrels. I don’t want to see skyscrapers.”

– André Leon Talley


There is arguably no better sense of fresh renewal than passing a rolling field of winter rye, its emerald locks rippling in the breeze. That lush green, vivid and energized, yet calming to every one of the senses, bestowing upon its gazer a new sense of hope and life. For most of us, we experience green on a daily basis…city parks, neighborhood wooded areas, the green of our own well-tended lawns. But have you ever experienced green through a butterfly? I mean…seriously think about that for a moment. It wouldn’t surprise me if your answer is a resounding “no.”

You see, butterflies clothed in green are pretty rare around the world. So you can imagine my surprise last spring when I caught this Photo Challenge favorite in Glen Rose while out on a hike with my son’s Cub Scout den. Scientists really don’t have a concrete answer as to why butterflies typically aren’t green, and even some that appear to be, like the Olive Juniper Hairstreak that I photographed here, actually don’t bear green pigment at all but rather employ a metallic refraction effect through wing scales that only reflect green light.

I appreciate and marvel the rare. I think most of us do. So there was no way this guy wouldn’t make the cut for the 2018 favorites. Clearly, his scales carry a lot of weight. 😉


All the best,

A. J.


“Green, the Envy” (Olive Juniper Hairstreak; Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas. April, 2018.)


This butterfly species is about the size of a thumbnail. Caterpillar host plants include various junipers, thus giving the butterfly its name. This is an example of a species that is almost never seen with its wings fully open (although I caught a shot of that as well, surprisingly). My little guy is enjoying a sunny afternoon nectaring on wild blackberry blossoms.



[Check out Day 4 of the December Photo Challenge here.]


2018 Review through the Lens: D4

”I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”

– Eartha Kitt


“You learn something new every day,” so the saying goes. I have to admit, I’ve never fully agreed with this sentiment. I think the disagreement lies in my espoused belief that most learning requires seeking and not every human being is a seeker. Sure it’s possible that new truths can just land in one’s lap from time to time, but to legitimately learn something new EVERY day requires a purposeful pursuit of learning. So I would argue that it’s more appropriate to change the phrase to, “You SHOULD learn something new every day.”

Today’s December Photo Challenge selection might just accomplish this for you. I have chosen this photo as one of my favorites, not because the image is so keenly spectacular in any way, but rather because it is a vivid reminder that learning and the expansion of one’s mind is a beautiful and sacred opportunity. This simple image of a Bluebonnet depicts something that I learned just this last spring; and I even live in Texas where the Bluebonnet is the state flower!

Have you ever noticed how the little banner on some of the florets of a Bluebonnet might appear purplish-red instead of white? Have you ever asked why? This coloration change occurs when the floret has aged and been depleted of pollen, and the change acts as a signal to bees to let them know not to waste their time expending energy in that location. Pretty impressive that a flower could actually work in mutual cooperation with a bee to help it perform more efficiently.

Who knew? Well…now you!


All the best,

A. J.


“Move On” (Texas Bluebonnet; Belmont Conservation District, Dallas, Texas. April, 2018.)


The Bluebonnet was named the official state flower of Texas in 1901, and there are actually six different species in Texas. Without adequate autumn rainfall, Bluebonnet seeds will not germinate. This means that some seeds might lie dormant for years before finally coming to life. Studies have shown that bees can collect up to 150 times more pollen from the white banners on the florets than from the purplish-red ones. Good thing bees can recognize this color distinction and just move on!


[Check out Day 3 of the December Photo Challenge here.]


2018 Review through the Lens: D3

Greatness can come from small beginnings.”

– Kamlesh Mishra


Welcome to Day 3 of my December Photo Challenge, where we go small. If you’ve followed this blog, you know how I love macro photography. Photographing in macro truly unveils the unseen naked eye world. To date, this is probably one of the smallest objects I have photographed. It’s the ova of a Reakirt’s Blue butterfly that I captured in our pollinator garden as the female was making her deposits. This is a beautiful little butterfly species that shimmers in blue, gold and copper, when it spreads its dorsal wings in the sunlight.

It’s remarkable that this lovely specimen begins as no more than a dot nestled within a tiny green bud. But, then again, look at you and me. We, too, began as mere specks with nothing more than promise. Just the fact that we exist is unfathomable. Go ahead, look over your shoulder and marvel at the wings you grew to carry you across distances, miles beyond numbering.

And, as you continue the journey, never forget that though you were small, yet are you great!


All the best,

A. J.


“Promise” (Reakirt’s Blue ova on Black Dalea; Belmont Conservation District, Dallas, Texas. August, 2018.)


The Reakirt’s Blue butterfly is a tiny species measuring only about 2.5 c.m. in diameter. Ants actually tend to the caterpillars, trading their body guard services for the sugary substances the caterpillars secrete. Females lay single eggs on each flower bud of the host plant, as the caterpillars prefer eating flowers and seed pods over leaves. Adult butterflies rarely sit still to open their wings, so it’s quite the surprise to catch one sunbathing and snap a pic.


[Check out Day 2 of the December Photo Challenge here.]


2018 Review through the Lens: D2

”It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

– E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web


Well, the first weekend of December is almost over, and it’s Day 2 of my December Photo Challenge. I pulled this one out of my archives from last spring. This photo reminds me of my love of our family lake house and all the fun times we’ve had there together. These spiders inhabit every dock, up and down the shoreline, often prompting frustrated boaters to get out their brooms. But, you know me, I prefer to let them be.

The spider web is an amazing and intricate piece of work, with every meaningful string woven, in connection with the next, to construct an ultimately purposeful whole. In a way, it reminds me a lot of writing. That’s probably why I respect the web. I empathize with the labor behind each thread. And, oh, to be a Charlotte…carefully crafting each line while always honoring the heart of one’s soul, in friendship to others, through the message. That’s the work of the greatest of web makers.

I hope you enjoy Day 2 as we continue our count-down together!


All the best,

A. J.


“Shielding the Sun” (Furrow Orb Weaver; Lake Bridgeport, Chico, Texas. March, 2018.)


Furrow Orb Weavers are so named because of a dark pattern on the abdomen that looks like a furrow. They are frequent residents of lake and coastal structures, generally prefering moist locations. Each night the spider will ingest its own web material and recycle it in order to rebuild areas of the web damaged throughout the day. There over 3500 species of orb weavers around the world, but only about 180 of those are present throughout the United States and Canada. If you’re thinking of getting out your broom, you might think twice. The Furrow Orb Weaver is a voracious predator of the common mosquito (and I think we could all use a few less of those).


[Check out Day 1 of the December Photo Challenge here.]


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