Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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We have babies!

There are two bluebird boxes in our yard. Last spring I cleaned out one of them, but hadn’t gotten to the other one when I noticed bluebirds checking it out, so I left it alone. Turns out the bluebirds went with other options and I sadly acknowledged that we didn’t have any tenants this year.

Warning off the human intruder.

Well, I guess I haven’t been paying attention.

For the past couple of days, whenever I wandered around the backyard there would rise up noisy, agitated chatter from the fringes of the yard. Somewhere up in the oak tree, or over in the hydrangea bush was an angry bird, but I could never quite find it.

Everybody OK in there?

Well, this morning I figured out most of the noise was coming from the bluebird house, the one I never got around to cleaning out. A house wren soon swooped up to sit on the roof and tell me off. I retreated to find my camera while she fed her babies who were screaming for their breakfast.

Heading out to gather more insects.

Once outside with my camera I hid in a tree far away and watched mom and dad fly in with insects for the hungry crew. I don’t know how many babies they have, but in this next shot you can see one of the little ones inside.

Click on this to make it larger so you can see inside the nest box.

My new Michigan bird book says they have two broods a year; this is probably the second and last. I’m guessing they had a batch while we were off traveling earlier in the summer. I’m so happy at least one of our rentals had occupants this summer. I think the world could use a few more wrens and I wish our happy brood success as they venture out into it.

It’s hard work being a parent.

Good luck little ones, it was an honor to be your landlord!

Don’t make me come in there!


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Running toward the race

Three weeks from this Saturday, that’s the day of my 10 mile race, the race I signed up for last winter when it seemed like I had lots and lots of time to go from zero to 10.

Well.

Mile 1, heading down the hill to the woods.

Today I walked and ran 8 miles at a local park. I had a plan and I executed it, so I’m happy even though it took me just over 2 hours to get it done.

My plan was to jog the second quarter mile in each of the eight miles, and then some parts of the other quarters, depending on the terrain (up a hill, walking, down a hill, maybe I’d jog) and the sun (in the shade, jog, in the sun, walk).

The Mile 2 sign sits amid wild flowers.

Sometimes it was hard, especially, for some reason, mile 5 and mile 7. But during my quarter mile jog I’d tell myself I only had to jog one stinking quarter and if I gave up I would have to run another one, so no sense giving up. And I didn’t. And some of the miles, if I felt good, I’d jog the 4th quarter of a mile too.

Just to prove I could.

The miles seemed to go by easier than in past attempts. I guess that’s testimony to getting out there as often as I can, and also because it was cooler today, only 68F (20C) when I started this morning. I think it was in the high 70s (23C) by the time I was finished, but there was a breeze which helped a lot.

A little bit of sunny yellow to make me smile on Mile 3.

The breeze also helped with the big flies that circled my head from mile 3 through the end of the run. I hate those flies, they hurt when they bite, but mostly they’re just annoying. Plus I look stupid trying to run while flinging my arms around over my head.

Looking forward to the shade during Mile 4.

Mostly the flies landed and became entangled in my hair where they buzzed angrily. I didn’t mind that so much because at least they weren’t biting me. But there was one fly obviously not paying attention because he flew into my left eye sometime during mile 6. As I swatted at my eye, I tried not to trip over my feet while moving forward using only one eye. Not a good look, but by then, to be honest, nothing about me was a good look.

A butterfly enjoyed some wildflowers in an open meadow during Mile 5.

Finally slogging my way out of the woods near the beginning of mile 8 I faced that long, sunny, uphill mile to the car. A small family on bikes came out of the woods behind me, the mother warning the two young children on their tiny little bikes that “now we have to go up the big hill.” The little boy, maybe 8, said, as he passed me, “I need to get around this girl, she’s going too slow.” His sister said, “You shouldn’t call an old lady a girl.” The mom said “And you shouldn’t call anyone slow.” I laughed out loud as he looked suspiciously over his shoulder at me as they sped away.

Plenty of mosquitoes back here near this pond during Mile 6.

And while I was on the steepest part of the hill, walking because I smartly ran my 8th quarter mile during a flat section, I caught up to a mother and little girl, maybe 5, pushing their bikes up the hill. Quite a way from the crest the little girl told her mom that she thought she could do it.

Mile 7 was filled with dappled shade.

So, with her mom chanting “You can do it, you can do it,” she got on her bike and muscled her way up to the top. Occasionally she wavered, but then would shout, “I can do it!” and kept pushing on. She made it and I was smiling as wide as her mom as they lit off toward the parking lot.

There’s a bench under that tree, taunting me during Mile 8.

She was shouting the same thoughts I’d been chanting silently during my long run/walk. She just looked cuter doing it.

The pictures here were taken during the walk portions of my 8 miles, one image for each mile, and one for the last quarter mile I went over 8.

Who could resist stopping to capture this, just after the end of mile 8.

Thanks for coming along, it helped to have you rooting for me. I thought a lot about truck stuff while I was out there, thanks for supporting me in those efforts too.

I hope the race goes as well as this 8 miles did.

I can do it!


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Smiling on the run again

I’ve got this road race coming up at the end of August. It seemed like a good idea when I registered and paid the pretty hefty fee months ago. But now August is sneaking up on me and I’ve been away from home for weeks at a time not training.

Oh, I took running clothes with me wherever I went. I’m sure they were quite comfortable sitting nice and secure inside my luggage.

Meanwhile, I need to get back on track. I’ve given myself permission to walk as much of the ten mile race as I need to. I’ve never run the whole thing, and I’ve run this race a bunch of times over the years. But still it would be nice to finish in a reasonable time. At least within the same day. Walking is sooooo slow!

A running friend and I are planning on doing the race together, at least part of it. Funny, we are both worrying about whether or not we can stick with each other. She’s training by running 4 minutes, walking 1 minute. I’m training by running a quarter mile, walking a quarter mile.

I think my run portion likely is about 4 minutes, though I’m not sure. It’s a proven fact that it is impossible to do math in your head while you’re running and this morning I was trying to divide my average time into quarters to get some idea of my pace. I definitely know that my walk portion is way longer than her one minute walk break.

Today I did six miles, at my favorite park, trying to get a feeling for my speed, or lack of it. I tried to find the stopwatch on my phone app, but realized pretty quickly that I can’t actually see my phone apps without my glasses. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick with Betty at our race, but I’ll work between now and then to run her style, 4 minutes of running, one minute of walking.

We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, here’s a montage of pretty things I saw on this morning’s run/walk.

So…how does all of this fit Trent’s weekly smile? Well, it felt great to be back at my favorite park, one where I used to run long every Saturday with a multitude of running friends. Lots of beautiful things to see, so I took photos during my quarter mile walks.

During one of those walk breaks a beautiful doe stood just behind a bush, she stared at me, I stared at her. Would have been an amazing photograph, but my phone didn’t have enough storage to take one more image. So she and I just watched each other for a long time. Made my mile 5 extra long, but extra special. So it all balances out.

I think I was smiling the whole six miles. In fact I was so happy to get the six miles done that I pulled into a cupcake place on the way home and bought a lovely lemon creme cupcake.

No I did not!! But I did look longingly at the cupcake place as I drove past. Hope the thought of a lemon cupcake made you smile!

But really, please write a post about what you’ve smiled about this week and link to Trent’s blog. He’ll recap all the smiles next Monday. It’s always good to begin Monday with a bunch of smiles!

Can’t wait to see yours!


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I’ve been waiting mama

Katie here!

I know for a fact you’ve been missing me, cause I haven’t been able to blog for months and months! OK. Weeks. But it feels like forever!

I’m bored mama!

There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t blogged, most of which have to do with the fact I haven’t done anything fun in ages. It’s not fair. Mama has been gallivanting all over the world.

And where did I get to go?

Seriously bored, mama.

I got to go to the kennel, that’s where I got to go! I seriously don’t understand why mama thinks that’s an adventure. I mean, while she was climbing mountains in Norway and the Hill in D.C. I was napping in my cell, um…room at the kennel.

Don’t get me wrong, they treat me fine there, but it’s definitely not an adventure.

I don’t think this is the kennel!

So yesterday, when mama got up early and started hustling around I got sort of nervous and went to hide somewhere, hoping she’d forget I was around. But that never works, and it didn’t work this time either.

A pretty river runs through the park.

I ended up in my crate in the car and we drove for almost an hour. I was definitely nervous when she opened the door, but you know where we were?

We were at Deuce’s house!

This is my friend Deuce!

Boy oh boy, I haven’t seen my buddy Deuce in a long time! This was way better than the kennel!

Being at a park is way more fun then the kennel or the groomer or the vet!

And then we all went, Deuce, his mom and mama and me, to one of his parks! It’s a perfect little park, just my size and it’s all shade.

Deuce and I spent a long time sniffing stuff, he’d be up front doing the scouting for us, then I’d come along and sniff the good stuff that he marked for me. It worked perfectly.

We’ll sit next to each other but we’re not thrilled about the interruption to our sniffing.

Of course along the way the moms had to make us pose for pictures. I swear, I try to use my new deafness as an excuse not to follow directions but darn mama uses hand signals so I end up posing for her.

We saw a couple deer in the park, a mama deer and her baby. My mama only got good pictures of the mama deer, after we moved on we looked back and saw the mama licking the baby’s face. It was so cute, but there was too much brush between us to get a good picture. Mama was still glad she saw it through.

You can see the two, mom and baby, looking at us, even though the photo isn’t in focus.

After we made one tour of the park I still felt good so we walked around it again. This time we noticed the numbers and we found the number 12 for me, cause I’m 12 years old!

Look! They’re celebrating my age!

The vet a couple weeks ago said I looked real good for my age and I have to agree I’m fabulous.

So anyway, that’s my adventure, and I’m grateful to my Aunt Karen, Deuce’s mom, for inviting us over to his park and for being patient when I was a little slow.

Sitting in a spot of sun for mama.

Though to be honest, it wasn’t always my fault. Don’t forget, I had mama attached to me and she has that darn camera that slows her up all the time. She’s always taking these artsy-fartsy pictures.

Mama is fascinated with light.

Frankly, if the focus isn’t me I don’t think it’s worth taking up the pixels.

Am I right or am I right?

Talk later, your park girl Katie.

I think I deserve a treat.


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The illusive camping birds plus a robin or three

I like site #16 at our local state park because it’s always filled with birds, many of them different than the birds that visit my feeders at home.

A yellow warbler hides in plain sight.

Camping there this week without Katie to distract me or them, I sat quietly through most of a day, camera in my lap studying how they worked the shrubs for food. There was wild cucumber as well as wild grapes winding their vines all over, and though the fruit wasn’t ripe, they seemed to be enjoying it.

I don’t know if this is the same bird, see the black around it’s eye?

This little yellow warbler worked his (or her) way up and down the branches, picking off green fruit as it went.

Giving me the cold shoulder.

I couldn’t get a good image, because it never stayed still, and mostly hid behind at least one layer of leaves. It would pop out for an instant and then be hidden again.

Incoming!

I tried for hours.

While I was concentrating on the little yellow bird I noticed a robin hopping around near my feet. Sometimes he’d stop and stare at me, and I realized I had a big container of blueberries open in front of me.

Hey lady! You got anything good over there?

Did he want one?

Well of course he did! Obviously he has been successful begging campers before.

Nom nom nom

The whole three days I was there a robin stopped by and begged for a treat. I don’t know if it was the same one, but at least once there were several be-bopping around.

Thanks lady!

And I had this visitor, I don’t know what this is, but he (or she) stopped by a couple of times.

He’s got a dark patch on his head that you can’t really see here.

And this one….this one seemed interested in the blueberries and chased a couple of them down when I tossed them his way. But he didn’t eat any of them. I don’t know what he is either.

About the same size as a robin, but slimmer. Maybe because he doesn’t eat blueberries.

At one time there was a perfect shot, he flew up on top of my tent with a small insect in his mouth, but of course my camera was over on the picnic table so I just watched him as he watched me.

Maybe a young something?

None of these bird pictures are great. I have excuses, the light was low, the birds were fast, I didn’t have the right ISO or shutter speed. But it was good practice for me and I’ll try again soon.

Meanwhile if you know what those last two birds are, let me know!

Site #16.


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It’s all about the light. Plus other camping tales.

We returned from D.C. a week ago today. I was so exhausted, so overwhelmed by crowds of people everywhere we went, that I needed some quiet time.

So I booked a campsite at the nearby state park for three nights, avoiding the weekend deliberately because no matter where I’ve camped sites fill up with crazy people starting Thursday afternoon.

Luckily for me my favorite site, #16, was open for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Site #16 is kind of sweet!

It’s my favorite site at this state park because it’s almost entirely surrounded by trees and underbrush, making it much more private than most of the sites.

I didn’t even take Katie, I was that tired. I planned on sleeping long in the mornings and doing nothing more than walk in the woods, read books and take naps.

Morning light deep in the woods.

Most of that happened.

When I checked in on Monday evening the ranger warned me that there were a “bunch of teenagers in site 12.” I wasn’t that worried, I figured there would be some laughing and squealing and music during the evening but my experience has been that everyone sort of settles down at 10 p.m. when quiet hours begin.

Not so much with these teenagers.

A bit of bee balm reaches for the light.

They were playing rap loudly when I arrived, and continued that throughout the evening, and well after midnight. Sometime during the night I heard a sound like a bunch of metal pipes falling. Then lots more laughing and yelling. Eventually, around 1:30, the music stopped and silence prevailed.

Early the next morning as I silently walked through the campground on my way to a walk in the woods I saw this.

Oops. One side of their camper collapsed.

I laughed, even while hoping no one was hurt.

My walk was wonderful, four miles took me two hours, caused by the hilly trail…and the fact I was taking pictures, practicing the manual settings that I learned last Sunday at my lavender field photo shoot.

Trees reaching for the light too.

The morning light was wonderful, sliding sideways through the trees. So many things were pretty that I had to stop often. That’s my excuse for my slow time. I’ve found it’s always good to have a camera around to use as an excuse when you’re just moving slow from lack of sleep. Most of the photos here are from that walk.

Don’t forget to look down sometimes, lots to see there as well.

Tuesday night a marauding groundhog woke me as he was snuffling around my tent for about an hour. Then coyotes howling far away kept me from falling back asleep. Still…that’s what camping is all about.

Wednesday I spent most of the day at my site, trying to get a decent picture of a yellow warbler that was flitting around. I didn’t end up with a great picture, but I’ll show you what I got in the next post.

Such fun stuff to see no matter where you look.

Then…Wednesday night. I really really wanted to get a good night’s sleep on my last night camping. But that wasn’t going to happen, because across the street, out of my sight, but right on the other side of the narrow park road, two huge campers were parked. Their many children were loud all day, but that was fine. The moms yelled, loudly, at the kids all day long, but that was OK too.

What wasn’t Ok was that after the kids went to bed the four adults sat around a campfire and discussed loudly most of the world’s ills. I am guessing what they were talking about, because it sounded like an Eastern European language, but it was obviously something they were very passionate about.

Touch-me-not with morning dew.

The four of them talked louder and louder, talking over each other excitedly. It woke me up at 1:30 and went on until almost 5 a.m. At one point I got up and walked to the end of my driveway, listened a bit and realized they weren’t talking louder than they had been all day. Maybe this was just the way they talked. Sure they’d been drinking, but they weren’t sloppy drunk.

A peaceful morning doesn’t always mean a peaceful night.

Maybe it was just the night air that made it sound like they were sitting around my fire. I went back to bed, drew the blankets up over my head and tried to imagine that their voices were just the sounds of bullfrogs singing.

The frogs actually were singing, but I couldn’t hear them over my neighbors talking.

I don’t know what this is, but it was very cool.

So, night three of little sleep. The first night I told myself not to let six teenagers ruin camping for me. But with two out of three nights ruined by rude noisy people I wonder if maybe camping has lost it’s appeal.

I don’t know. Maybe I should try again somewhere further away from the city. Maybe I should have called the night ranger. Maybe I should have just gone over there and asked them to pipe down.

What would you have done?

Twisted logic?


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Just imagine the smell…and the smiles

Trent, over at Trent’s World urges us all to post one smile a week, because we could all use a smile now and then. I’m been absent these past few weeks, not because anything terrible has happened, or because I couldn’t think of any smiles. No, I haven’t posted a smile in awhile because I’ve been so darn busy, or out of town, or forgetful.

Maybe all of the above.

Breath in deeply and try not to swoon.

But this week I can’t but help sharing a smile. Specifically a very sweet, heavily perfumed smile. The kind of wide smile that happens when you see fields and fields of lavender in bloom.

Which is exactly what happened to me.

For a moment I thought I’d been transported to France.

I signed up weeks ago, long before our D.C. trip, even before the Norway adventure, for an evening photo shoot in a lavender farm located about an hour away from me.

Then I forgot all about it.

Peddling some lavender.

Good thing I put it on the calendar in ink, just to remind me, otherwise I’d have missed this heavenly opportunity altogether. And that would have been a shame, because I couldn’t stop grinning the whole evening.

Smells yummy.

Imagine.

Ready to make some lavender honey.

A small group of photographers and a whole lot of lavender, lining up in rows, topping hills, glowing in the sun.

Some of our class having fun out in a field.

Alive with bees and butterflies, the purple heads nodding in the breeze or reaching for the sky.

Rows and rows and rows of lavender.

Did you know there’s white lavender too? Me either.

And a few other photo worthy things as well. Some of them were placed there by the lavender farm itself, as points of interest for photographers.

Waiting for a rider.

Some of them were just growing wild along the edges of the fields.

Trying to blow free.

All of it was just wonderful.

Evening sun made the orange pop.

There was so much to see, let me insert a little slide show here.

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As the sun went down we were reluctant to leave. But we had our lavender shots and all that was left was to capture the sunset. So we did.

Lavender sky over lavender fields.

I can’t fully explain what a treat this was, and I thank Bob Ditommaso, a professional photographer who teaches great classes, for putting these opportunities out there for us.

That’s Bob in the blue shirt.

It was a fun evening, I met some great people and I finally figured out how to capture images totally in the manual mode on my new camera. That’s been so frustrating for me and I was grateful for the “aha!!!” moment I had out there in the lavender.

If you want to understand your camera better, and you’re in the Detroit area, take a class from Bob, and then join him and some other great students for one of his meetups.

Guaranteed to be phenomenal.

Phenomenal lavender too.


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Meanwhile, back in Norway…

I promised a few photos of the churches we visited so let me do that before I get even further behind! The first church we visited was in Vance, a town not too far from where we were staying. It’s beautiful and sits in the center of town.

A family member is the caretaker for this church and he gave us a personal tour of the building…

…including taking us up into the bell tower.

This is the church where my husband’s grandfather is buried so it holds a lot of family history.

It’s history also includes a tiny little door over on the side which is where the women, back in the day, were required to enter.

I’m glad those days are gone!

And then we were able to attend an outdoor Sunday service at the church where my husband’s grandmother was baptized when she was a baby.

It happened that there was a baby being christened that morning, and I couldn’t help but think the ceremony might have been similar all those years ago.

In fact, the baptismal used in the ceremony we witnessed was the same one used back then.

We were given a tour of this church too, by a town historian who said his English wasn’t very good, but we found it to be perfect.

It’s a smaller church than the one back in Vance, but just as beautiful.

Our Norwegian family went out of their way to help us understand family history. We met with several people over the two weeks that knew something of the history of the area or of the family.

It really made our time there special; everyone was so friendly and helpful. We know we only saw a tiny bit of what was there, but hopefully we’ll be back some day to explore even more!


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Truck safety earworms

The term earworm generally refers to a bit of music that’s trapped in your head, playing over and over inside your brain long after you heard the actual song. And that’s just what happened inside my brain today as I worked to weed my impossibly overgrown gardens.

With Congresswoman Norton

I keep hearing a mother’s voice as she described her young daughter’s journal, filled with life lessons, found two days after her twelve year old was killed in a school bus that was struck by a semi driven by a distracted driver. I hear another mother’s anguish as she described the crash that killed her seven year old sitting in the back seat of her stopped car when a semi slammed into the back of them. And the voices of the young adult children whose parents were killed when the semi hit them head on, going the wrong way down a mountain road. I hear the tremor in a survivor’s voice as she describes being pushed off a bridge by a semi. I hear the anguish in a husband’s voice as he talks about his wife and stepchildren gone in an instant.

Day 1 on the Hill, visiting my Representative.

I spent five days in Washington D.C. with these and many other families at the Truck Safety Coalition’s biannual conference we call Sorrow to Strength. It’s something of an emergence into grief, but it’s also a place to witness the rebuilding strength that comes from being together with others who have had similar experiences.

Before the press conference.

We spent Saturday getting to know each other, to offer comfort and hugs and empathetic tears. We laughed together too, over the silly things we miss about our loved ones lost to truck crashes, about the things we used to do but can’t any longer if we are injured survivors.

Representative Garcia, from Illinois, introduced the new bill to increase minimum insurance.

Sunday we buckled down and learned about the issues, many of which were contributing factors in our own crashes. This year we have four bills in Congress that we support, all focused on making the roads safer for everyone, truck drivers included.

Then, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we went to work, walking Capitol Hill and visiting offices of Senators and Representatives to educate, as well as transportation agencies to discuss the lack of rule making progress.

Things in Washington move with great deliberation.

It was hot, with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index well above that.

It was especially hot during a press conference we held on the Capitol grounds at noon on Tuesday. We were lucky to have three Congressmen introducing two new truck safety bills, and we were glad to support them by standing behind the podium holding pictures of our lost loved ones.

Kate talks about the multiple surgeries, costing millions, that her son needed after his crash.

But man, it was hot.

Regardless, our families were troopers and made it to all their assigned meetings, sometimes wringing wet, sometimes red faced, but there. People who never spoke in public before spoke to strangers in Congressional offices and spoke up at DOT meetings even while facing a row of men in suits.

And they did it all because of love.

Day 2, with one of my Senators who has cosponsored one of our bills.

Their love for those lost is bigger than any fear of the unknown. Bigger then the fear of being uncomfortable or sweaty or lost in the long marble halls of a Senate office building. Their love carried them through the telling of their stories over and over, reliving it each time, each time adding one more scar on top of the thousands of scars already lacerating their hearts.

A crash survivor being interviewed after the press conference.

And at the end of our time together there were more tears and hugs as we said goodbye to our Truck Safety Family, knowing that we’re never truly alone, even on our worst days, because these people have our hearts and our backs. Most of us will stay in touch through email and social media. And though we wish we didn’t have to, we’re ready to do it all again when D.C. calls.

Some of my Truck Safety family, ready to generate some change.

Love conquers all and our loved ones deserve to be remembered, not just for the way they died, or were injured, but for the way they lived. And that’s why I don’t mind the earworms dancing in my brain today.

We made time for ice cream.

It’s just another way of remembering them all.

Change is hard.