Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Cello Tales

A year ago, January 9th, 2019, I posted a list of fun stuff I hoped to do. Better than resolutions, these were things that I’d thought about doing over the years but just hadn’t accomplished.

Making a sound on a cello was one of my crazier ideas. It was so crazy in fact that I could never successfully explain just what I meant – or even why it was a thing for me.

A cello at rest.

Probably because I wasn’t even sure myself.

But as of Wednesday, one day short of a full year later, because of two lovely ladies who went out of their way to make my wish come true, I can check hugging a cello off my to-dream list.

Learning the basics, with Joan, our host, standing in the back and Carol with her cello.

And I’m not so sure I can find words to share the experience with you.

Joan got a lesson too.

Our host was a professor from my days at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. We’ve kept in touch off and on over the ten years since I graduated and last month she read about my cello hugging dream and knew that she could help me realize it.

Learning how to hold the bow.

She coordinated with a cello playing friend of hers who, it turns out, didn’t mind at all letting some novice stranger sit with her cello and hold her bow while making noises unrelated to music.

Carol was so patient.

There’s a lot to playing a cello. Two hands doing different things, one bulky instrument leaning against you, knees and arms encircling it’s girth. Fingers to grip the bow just so, relax the shoulder, movement from the elbow only, the angle of the bow on the strings, how the fingers of the left hand press down just from the tips. What to do with your left thumb.

Turns out Joan’s husband was a natural.

So much to remember.

But when I got everything right a low round tone would swell out of the instrument. Not as beautiful a sound as when our instructor played, but still pretty nice. And each time I played a clear note I could feel the sound reverberate right though my soul and fill me up.

Not quite a virtuoso, but smiling.

Amazing.

There was so much to remember that I couldn’t take my eyes off of my own hands to look at music. Which is just as well. Because, well, cello music!

I thought it was written in base clef and it often is. But when the notes get high enough it switches to treble clef! So you could be reading along and suddenly your brain would have to switch clefs? And to make it even more insane, there’s also a tenor and an alto clef!

Carol played for us after we were finished making noise on her cello.

I saw at least three clefs on one of the pieces of music she shared with us. The different clefs are needed because the cello has such a wide range of notes, from very low to quite high. All those notes won’t fit on any single staff…so the composer can just include several different clefs in a single piece, and those talented cello players deal with it.

Mind boggling.

The next time I’m enjoying cellos playing in the symphony or a quartet, or even in a DC subway, I’ll have a better understanding and admiration for their talents. The sounds are spectacular. The brains and hands of the artists are astounding.

Those fingers on the left hand had no clue what they were doing.

It was so much fun. I am indebted to the women who willingly shared their lives and time with me just so I could learn something about an instrument I have always admired. If everyone could hug a cello the world would be a better place, and I’m grateful to have had the experience.

I drove home in late afternoon sunshine under fat, purple bottomed clouds that were chasing a three quarter moon. I tried to pinpoint what the experience had felt like.

It felt round and strong and deep and soft, sort of like the golden light falling all around me as I drove.

It felt beautiful.

The moon rises over a wonder filled day.


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Windy smile

As you know, Trent hosts a weekly prompt over on his blog looking for smiles. And, as you know, one of the things that makes me smile is Lake Michigan – especially Lake Michigan and light houses.

So I picked up a friend of mine, the same friend that went with me last year to Pt. Betsie in -13 degrees with an unimaginable windchill, and we headed on over to Michigan’s west coast. Sunday the weather was better, with a temperature hovering around 32 degrees (0C).

We were very appreciative of that alone.

It was a blustery day on the Lake.

When we got to Grand Haven there was wind, but not nearly as much as we had hoped – the waves were perhaps five feet high. Still it was so pretty. There was a guy in his kayak bobbing among the waves. We thought he was crazy.

Crazy man.

I noticed later when I was reviewing pictures, that he was wearing a GoPro. Somewhere on YouTube there is likely a very cool (literally) video. I should go try to find it. He got out of the water shortly after we arrived, and the rest of our time there we took a few pictures, interspersed with longer periods of sitting in the car waiting to see if the wind picked up.

It didn’t, so we went to lunch, then traveled further south to South Haven, where the wind seemed stronger, but the lake floor was deeper and the waves not as big as we’d hoped.

But the sun came out!

The sun made even the wind a little more bearable.

It was pretty there too, but not exactly what we had envisioned. We drove up onto the bluff to see if we could capture the turquoise of the lake better from a higher vantage point.

A different angle shows off the colors of the lake.

It was getting late, but we decided to stop at one more beach. We drove up the coast to Holland. By then the sun had hidden behind dense clouds again and the wind was howling.

And there we found a wind surfer.

Getting ready to be crazy.

I had trouble keeping him and his sail in the frame. The wind was grabbing me and my lens and focusing was almost impossible.

I missed getting the sail in this shot, but it shows how high he went.

He let the sail pull him high up into the air, where he began doing acrobats, twisting and turning, sometimes feet above his head.

Even the surfers were busy watching the guy with the wind sail.

We both got our feet wet on the beach in Holland as we were focused on the kite and it’s passenger, instead of the waves racing on the sand.

Riding the wind.

But we were smiling so much we didn’t even care.

Fun under a dark sky.

What made you smile this week? Write a post and link to Trent’s blog and he’ll send out a recap on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing what perked you up this early January week.

South Haven lighthouse enjoys an early winter bath.


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That stupendous things to do list from 2019

A few of you will remember that in January 2019 I put together a list of interesting, stupendous and fun stuff to do. Sort of like a list of resolutions but much more relaxed.

I’ll admit I only studied the list on occasion, never put together a process of reviewing it once a month, and never added anything to it during the year like I thought I might. In fact it sat on my dresser for several months and then, as with most resolution type things, it got covered up in the debris of every day life.

But I didn’t forget it, and I thought it might be interesting to see how many of the fun things I actually got to do last year!

2019 Interesting, Stupendous and Fun Things

*Visit the Point Betsie lighthouse in the winter to see the ice formations.
Thanks to a friend who got excited at this idea, got us a hotel room and drove, I headed north right away. It was fun and very very cold! Point Betsie is beautiful no matter what season, and we saw other beautiful things the next day too!

*Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (not in winter).
While I didn’t actually camp in the UP I did spend some time there this past September. We saw a whole lot of beautiful things before we headed up into Canada for our drive around Lake Superior. And last month I made two reservations for camp sites in the UP for this June. I can’t wait.

*Try acrylic painting.
I purchased a few colors and a few small canvases and I mooshed some paint around a couple times. That was fun. But it didn’t really seem like it was a good try. This year I think I need to make a space to work where I’m not afraid of making a mess. So this will stay on the 2020 list.

*Find someone willing to teach me what it’s like to make a sound on a cello.
This is the stupendous thing that is most difficult for me to explain to anyone. And it’s very dependent on being able to find someone to help me. The bad news is that I didn’t get this worked out in 2019. The wonderful news is that next week I have a date with a cello! One of my library school professors knows someone who is willing to let me hug her cello, and we’re all going to get together in Ann Arbor on Wednesday. It almost makes me tear up, and I can’t explain why. I hope I’ll have words to tell you all about it soon.

*Gain confidence on the new Nikon camera, and figure out what the optimum lens is.
This is another one that I’ve made some progress on, but couldn’t say that I’ve completed. I am definitely better with manual settings; I’ve been experimenting all year. Sometimes I think I’ve got it…and then often I have to figure it all out again. And more good news, I am taking a class from a professional photographer at the end of January that revolves around choosing lenses. I’m excited about that, and I’m sure you’ll hear more on this topic soon.

*Improve night photography skills.
Oh I have a blog post to write about this one. While we were in the UP in September the northern lights were predicted to appear. And we had the perfect location too. But you will note that you never heard about it…even though I have pictures to share. I think about posting them, and then I think….just another failure, and I’ve shown you so many night shots that weren’t what I was hoping for. Still…it makes a really good story and I suppose I should share. I’ll keep trying this year. In fact, those two UP campsites I booked were reserved specifically with the hope I have clear skies during the nights I’m there.

*Spend a week in the Southwest.
This didn’t happen. Mostly because I fell and injured both wrists a couple weeks before we thought we were going out there. And then we ended up traveling so much we couldn’t fit it in…and then I fell at the end of summer and broke my finger and was stuck here doing physical therapy. But it’s definitely on the 2020 list!

*Visit husband’s family in Norway.
This was our big trip of the year. You saw several posts from Norway – it’s a beautiful country and we only saw a tiny part. We’d like to go back and explore more.

*Walk the CRIM 10 mile race in August.
Well, I ran and walked it. I had fun right up till the last two blocks when I fell and broke my finger. I am debating whether to do it again this year.

*Spend a month or more in Alabama, invite friends to visit while I’m there.
It’s amazing, but I never made it to Alabama at all in 2019. The last time I was there was July of 2018. I just couldn’t seem to carve out enough time, between injuries and trips, to get there. But Alabama now a high priority for 2020!

*Look into the purchase of a 2nd kayak for the lake.
I’ve done a little looking but this is something I want to do when I’m down in Alabama, so I’ll just tag that onto the “get to Alabama soon!” bullet point.

*Read 50 books, and try at least one from a genre I don’t usually read.
According to Goodreads I read 66 books in 2019, though I don’t think I read any that were definitely different genres then my typical reading. I read a couple books written by women who had decided to give up coloring their hair and had let it go naturally grey. I’ve decided, after much thought, to do that too. So far I’m 3 months into it and it’s kind of making me nuts. I see my hair person next week for a trim, we’ll see if I’m still going grey after that.

*Ride my bike on some of the rail-to-trails around here, maybe a one day bike trip complete with lunch along the way, maybe with a local bike group.
I never did this. Never road my bike at all. This is very sad. I think I need to move it up in importance for 2020.

*Walk and photograph the Dequindre Cut here in Detroit.
Again, thanks to the same friend who went with me to Point Betsie, we explored the Dequindre Cut last spring. It was so much fun!

*Meetup with sheltie mom(s) for adventure.
In November Katie and I got to go for a walk with Abby, a sheltie-girl and her mom. They live a couple hours away and we met in the middle and had a lovely walk on one of the last nice days of fall. We hope to get together again, and I hope to meet with more shelties and their parents in 2020!

So…I got to do a lot of the fun stuff on my list…and missed getting a few others done by just a little. I’m debating if I should put together an official list stupendous things to do in 2020.

What are you planning on doing for fun in 2020? And do you think I need a list or should I just wing it?

I think you should have more stupendous things on your list that include me mama!


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The last smile post of 2019 plus Nancy’s photo challenge: Clouds

You wouldn’t think heavy weather would be the underlying reason for smiles. And unless you have a camera and a habit of watching the sky it probably isn’t.

The first image I got this morning.

This week’s smile comes to you in conjunction with Nancy’s weekly photo challenge where she asked for images of clouds.

I loved the gold of the shorn corn field against the navy of the angry sky.

Today’s post also comes to you compliments of high winds and a cold front that blew through Michigan today. I couldn’t resist grabbing the camera and heading north.

Sentry poles stand against the storm.

I was looking for open fields so that I could highlight the sky. And if I got a barn in the shot – well – that would be even better.

A flash of red had me stopping on the empty rural road.

I was traveling on roads unfamiliar to me, and the land just wasn’t opening up. I traveled through small town after small town, feeling frustrated as the clouds I chased were blowing away faster than I could drive.

And just as I was turning around, heading home, the sun came out.

But I kept driving and eventually I found the country dirt roads lined with big empty fields that I’d been looking for. And lucky me, a whole new batch of clouds obliged by posing over barns and fields alike.

Love the sun on the field and the white clouds overtaking that navy sky.

You can’t keep me from smiling when I’m on the hunt for barns and weather.

Thank you Trent and Nancy, for coordinating challenges that get me out, usually with my camera, but always noticing the world around me. The world is a better place when we stay open to the beauty and the smiles that surround us daily.

Happy New Year everyone!

Farms and clouds, both guaranteed to make me smile!


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My gift to me

You’d think that this week’s smile would center around Christmas day. A lot of people find that day the culmination of weeks of preparation, but for me, this year, I didn’t have to prepare much of anything. Which left Christmas Eve day open to do anything I wanted to do. Most of you can guess where I spent it.

And you’d be right if you guessed the woods.

Dried beech tree leaves are the only leaves still clinging to their branches.

Monday had been in the 50s (10C) and Katie and I enjoyed a long sunny walk. But Tuesday it was cold, the high temperatures only half of the day before, and of course I didn’t pay attention and was under-dressed. But once I got moving everything but that darn broken finger warmed right up.

I went out to Kensington, my favorite park and nature trails, on the hunt for something different. This is the park where the little birds come down and perch on people’s hands if they are offered seed. And I always love that experience, but I wanted to see what else was out there.

The bridge to the fun begins here.

Of course I wasn’t surprised when I stopped on a bridge not far from the car to change some settings on my camera and heard the familiar fluttering of wings near my head. A silly little downy woodpecker landed on the bridge railing and insisted that I give him something. No picture, because I wasn’t prepared, though I think he would have waited right there for me to get the camera settings right. Instead I just reached in my pocket (because of course I had something for him!) and handed him a peanut.

Little stinker didn’t even say thank you before he took off to enjoy his treat.

No snow around here at the moment.

I headed to the trails furthest away from the parking lot, trails that I had never explored before. I know that the further away you go from the parking lot and nature center the fewer little birds you’ll see or hear. They’re smart and hang out where most of the people wander. But the further away you go the fewer people you’ll run into and that was my goal, at least for the first part of my walk.

Moving further away from the crowds.

I did hear and see a big pileated woodpecker, he was sounding the alarm about me, I think. When I stood still and watched him he went back to pounding on a dead tree. He was too far away and directly into what sun there was, so no picture of him either.

I was OK with that, after all my goal wasn’t more bird pictures. No, I wanted to see what else was out there. And even if I didn’t see anything interesting, I was enjoying just being out in the woods.

Seed fluff, wonder why the birds don’t eat this?

There was a lot of interesting colors…

Would make cool wallpaper.

…and textures everywhere I looked.

Like it was knitted.


Not to mention the moss that was everywhere…

Fuzzy.

…just about every downed log had something growing on it.

A squirrel’s emerald highway.

After a bit I had the feeling I was being watched. Glancing over to my left I almost missed them. There are two faces watching me, do you see them?

Way over on that ridge, I’m being watched.

How about if I crop it?

Look to the left of the first face you see…there’s another peering between the trees.

The mama deer, laying down and chewing her cud just like a cow, watched me watch her. She didn’t move as I took off my backpack, changed the lens on my camera, and took a shot.

Guess I’m not very scary.

She just kept chewing. Eventually I noticed there was a whole herd of deer just over the ridge. They were all watching me, but none of them ran as I moved away.

After that sighting I was headed back toward the nature center, but I didn’t want the fun to end, so I connected with another trail, one I’ve been on many times. It was late in the day now and I didn’t expect to see much.

I was reminding myself that once, right along this trail, I came across a huge flock of turkeys. I glanced over to my right and saw what looked like, from far away, three stumps. Could it be?

Three turkeys were asleep, lined up on a log.

Don’t bother us lady, we were sleeping here!

The trail was going to take me about 2 feet from their log. I kept taking pictures because I was sure they were going to wake up and move away. They did, indeed, wake up, but they never moved. Three sets of eyes watched me walk past them.

And then they tucked their heads back under their wings and went to sleep.

Boy, it’s sure hard to get rest around here! (Notice way to the right, the turkey assigned to guard duty shirking his responsibilities.)

Then, as I got closer to the parking lot the little birds started hovering. If I stood still getting a shot of anything they flew down to see if I had a treat.

I changed the camera settings and had some fun. These aren’t great shots, but they show the frenzy that can happen when the birds are hungry.

Two at once!

The shots I find most interesting are the ones that show movement. I couldn’t tell what I had until I got home and looked at them on a bigger screen. They aren’t what I was hoping for, but they do give me ideas of how to tweak things to get more of the bird in focus.

All this wing movement would be fun to capture with the head more in focus.

I think I will try shutter speed priority, and set the shutter speed way high, then adjust the rest of the settings to support that. I’d also like more of the bird to be in focus, so that means a higher Fstop too. I have a camera that will allow some of these extreme settings…so it’s worth a try!

And of course I did get a few images of birds in focus. Like this titmouse. Look how elegantly perfect he is! The feet are extraordinary, and the wings are just beautiful.

Perfect!

So I’ll be back. On my way out to the trails I passed a squirrel in a tree enjoying his breakfast. An hour later he was still there, still munching away.

Nom nom nom…

I guess to get the bird shots I want I’ll have to be just as methodical and persistent as this little guy.

I have high expectations for success soon.


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Healing walk

This morning was the 15th anniversary of the semi-truck crash that killed my dad. Fifteen years of working on issues to make our roads safer. Fifteen years of missing him every single day.

For whatever reason this year was rougher than usual. So after my physical therapy session I planned to take myself off for a walk in the woods. Unseasonably warm, at 52F (11.11C) this December afternoon, I packed extra water for Katie-girl who insisted on going along. “We can’t waste a day like today mama!”

Early afternoon sunlight felt warm on this December day.

Though it was a Monday there were plenty of people enjoying the sunshine. Everyone we met smiled at the cute sheltie who was showing off her good side by letting little kids pet her. We even ran into a woman who said she used to handle shelties at dog shows and that “someone did some good breeding” with Katie.

A perfect day to walk in the woods.

We moved at Katie’s speed which means we walked very slowly. There was so much to see and sniff. I was in no hurry either, thinking about Dad and Mom, and how much they would have enjoyed a walk in this woods on such a beautiful day, and that made me smile.

Do I get to choose which way we go mama?

About an hour into the walk my phone, which I had set to map our walk, intoned “Mile 1, split time – not moving.” I laughed out loud. We were so slow that the GPS in my phone didn’t think we had moved at all. Katie was insulted.

We’ll come back here soon.

All in all it was a lovely walk in a beautiful park. It’s new to us, we were introduced to it just this past fall by a friend. Katie says we owe her cookies or something else equally nice, as this is a wonderful place to walk. While we were there I bought a pass for 2020 as I’m sure we’ll be back!

Sometimes life throws you curves.

There’s nothing quite like spending time outside to shake the blues. I’ll always miss my parents, but it felt good taking them with me on today’s walk.

And I bet they enjoyed it just as much as we did.

Made it through another Dec 23rd.


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Smile in remembrance

A few years ago there was a cool dog named Norwood. Long time readers might remember that he and his Mom used to go for long runs in the woods, and that we were all devastated when he became suddenly ill and crossed the rainbow bridge long before his time.

His mom knit stars and sent them to some of us to hang in special places. Katie and I hung our star in her park where it fluttered for quite a long time before it disappeared.

Well today a very good friend and her boy Deuce joined us at Katie’s park. She brought along three metal stars, one for Norwood, one for Reilly and one for Denny, and we hung them on a tree tucked into the back of the park.

It’s our tribute tree where we will remember those special dogs that have gone before us, and who we hope to see again someday. The engraver got confused and dubbed Norwood a Cowspot Dog instead of Denny, but that’s OK, Norwood can be an honorary Cowspot Dog, because he was just that cool. And I’m sure Denny and Reilly would share.

In fact I’m sure they were all together while we were out at the park, smiling at us as their stars went up. People are honored with a star on the walk of fame, but dogs? Well they’re a lot more interested in a good tree.

Do you see the stars way up above Katie’s head?

And now three special dogs have one, and that makes me smile.


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Truck Drivers want to spend the holiday with family too

So much of what I write about trucks talks about their affect on us in cars. Trucks plowing into the back of slowed traffic. Trucks representing such a high percentage of crashes in construction zones. Fatigued truck drivers. Distracted truck drivers.

But did you know that driving a commercial truck is the most deadly job in the United States? The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks it as #1 on the list of dangerous jobs in 2018.

In fact, in 2018, 831 truck drivers died on the job. Many of these were truck on truck crashes, or individual trucks going off the road for a variety of reasons. But there were plenty of truck/car crashes too.

In 2018 almost 5,000 people died in truck related crashes. The numbers have been trending up since 2009. The stresses of driving a truck intersecting with the stresses of driving a car never end well for those in the car. And the guilt and grief most truck drivers experience when there’s a crash, particularly a fatal crash, can be overwhelming.

Recently I found a few articles about trucker suicide. The drivers are caught in the middle, between the shippers that want their goods moved quickly, the trucking company that wants the goods shipped profitably, the loading docks that are overbooked, road construction everywhere, and people driving cars much too close — not leaving enough space for trucks to maneuver safely. And to top it off they are paid by the mile. Every delay costs them money.

It’s hard to make a living on the road.

For those of us working on safety issues 2019 was a busy but frustrating year. We pushed four bills, each addressing a different issue, the objective of each to make our roads safer for everyone – truck drivers included. It was hard to feel like we made much progress, politics being what it is today, but we were out there sharing ideas and pushing safety and people on the hill and out in our communities listened. That’s a beginning.

But we all know that every moment we are out there pushing for safety more people, people in cars and people in trucks, are dying. Every delay in our work costs someone his or her life. On average 13 people a day are dying in truck crashes.

Next year, 2020, we’ll be working hard again. If you’re still thinking about donating to our cause, here’s the link. We’d appreciate it. Our work is so important and we can’t do it without your help.

And if you know a truck driver, give them a hug and ask them to stay safe. Spread the word among your family and friends during this holiday season about driving safely around trucks. Remind everyone that safety advocates are working to make the roads safer for everyone, truck drivers included.

Because they want, and deserve, to go home to their families too.

Dedicated to my dad, killed by a tired trucker Dec 23, 2004.

Ten years before.