Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Blackened

I went for a walk at one of my favorite parks a couple days ago. It wasn’t a pretty day but at least it wasn’t raining. Or snowing.

Between winter and spring.

I went because I hadn’t been in awhile and because I was feeling sad about a friend of mine who is going through some tough stuff.

A place to rest and contemplate.

When I got to the park there was a warning at the gate about a prescribed burn. That’s when parts of the land are deliberately burned to ward off weeds and nonnative plants.

A scorched earth walk.

Much of the nature trail area was black, which accentuated the hills that I’m always trying to photograph. For that reason alone I didn’t mind walking along the scorched earth, or the smell that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Overlooking his park, wondering what happened.

As I walked I stopped often to take pictures. No surprise. It took me forever to walk the four miles, but it didn’t feel like forever.

Back in the woods spring is taking hold.

It felt wonderful. Spring is arriving, though slowly. Tiny wildflowers are popping up. More will follow.

So tiny you might miss the evidence of spring right under your feet.

I thought about my friend and hope he is able to come on a walk with me soon. He’d find hope in the woods, even the burned parts.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go.

Of course yesterday, listening to the Supreme Court news, I felt sadness overtaking me again. The world seems to be a darker shade of burned right now.

Nothing but darkness.

I’m trying to remember that deep in the woods hope is poking up from under last years debris.

Little umbrellas of hope.

I think I’m going to need another walk real soon.


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Lunch N Learn

The Truck Safety Coalition has started a series of interviews, done during lunch hours, of different people working on issues within the truck safety world. The series is titled Lunch N Learn.

Earlier this year we did an interview with Michael Belzer, former truck driver and now a PhD and professor at Wayne State University, focused on the purported driver shortage. Dr. Belzer authored “Sweatshops on Wheels,” a book about the deregulation of the trucking industry. You can go to the video library on the Truck Safety Coalition’s website (trucksafety.org) and click on “Debunking the Driver Shortage” to see that interview.

This Thursday, May 5th, at 12:30 p.m. eastern daylight time, we will be interviewing Representative Andy Levin who has authored a bill, H.R. 7517, the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act. We’ll be finding out what led him to the writing of this bill, and how he hopes to move it forward.

You can tune in to hear about this industry changing idea yourself, just by clicking this link on Thursday at 12:30 eastern.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time you’ll know that most truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, and that creates a lot of the safety issues that we all face when we’re sharing the roads with big commercial trucks.

I think you’ll find the Congressman interesting and informative. I hope you can join us. And if you can’t, I will post a link later for you to watch at a time convenient to you.


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A day at the beach

You all know that my happy place is just about anywhere on the shores of a Great Lake, but especially Point Betsie, a lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

This is Ace, 2 years old, and Deuce who is 10.

It has sentimental value because it was a favorite place for my parents, who camped near it on their honeymoon back in 1952.

Ace likes to swim.

Though when I think about camping in a green army pup tent in October I have to wonder what my dad was thinking.

Mom and Dad at Point Betsie in 1994.

But they stayed married for more than fifty years.

Deuce likes to stay on dry land.

This week I had the opportunity to wander the beach at Point Betsie with a friend and her two cocker spaniels. We had a beautiful day, cool for the dogs but a bit of sun for us.

Ace got to run free for the first time in his life.

I took my camera equipment including the tripod, in case it looked like we’d have stars. My friend was willing to stay up late with me while I tried to capture the Milky Way.

Deuce is an old hand at managing his freedom. (photo credit, Deuce’s mom)

I don’t think she realized how late that would have to be; the Milky Way isn’t really visible until almost morning at this time of year.

A beautiful beach, and no one around.

But as we walked the beach the clouds rolled in and after a few hours of rock hunting, and a great lunch at a park beside the Platt River in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we decided to head home.

Posing for treats.

The next day I saw beautiful images posted on Facebook of stars and the Northern Lights, taken the night before at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes from the boat launch at the end of the road.

Yep. I told my friend if I ever suggest we head home early she should just kick me.

Sometimes life throws you a curve.

Katie says it serves me right for going on an adventure without her.

There’s always next time.

Sigh.


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Katie’s definition of dichotomy

Katie here!

Guess what? The weather changed! I know that everybody thinks they have the most crazy weather around, but I’m here to say nobody beats Michigan for crazy!

My backyard just this past Monday!

As you know, last Saturday I was with my mama and our friend at a Michigan state park. It was sunny but cold and windy. Perfect.

Me just last weekend!

Then on Monday it snowed! Yes, snow. Not just a little bit either. It snowed most of the day, big wet, sticky flakes of snow that piled up.

I hope the lady doesn’t forget to put out breakfast for us!

The birds didn’t know what to think of it all.

Waiting for our hummingbirds.

But I knew exactly what we should do — we should go out and explore! So I bugged my housekeeper mama and out we went!

Mama! This is crazy good!

We had so much fun! Mama said it wouldn’t last long so we should enjoy it while it was there. She said she’d try not to grumble about it too much.

It’s crazy, but it’s fun too! Never complain about another fun day spent together, mama!

Then we got a couple days of rain. I don’t mind rain, it just gives me an excuse to be lazy and nap all day. (Not that I need an excuse, I get to do whatever I want because I’m the only royal resident around here.)

Do not interrupt the royal nap, mother!

Thursday the sun came out and mama said we shouldn’t waste a sunny day either. Especially a sunny day that was still cool enough for me to enjoy it.

I’m camouflaged, bet you can’t see me!

So off we went to one of my parks and we walked in the woods for a long time.

I’m a happy girl when I’m in the woods with mama!

Mama had her stupid camera (of course) so she was lollygagging along taking pictures of not me. I don’t know why.

Signs of spring were everywhere.

I had to wait for her all the time. But that’s not unusual. When I think about it, I’m always waiting for my mama.

Will you come ON, mama?

Waiting to go outside. Waiting to go on a walk. Waiting for an adventure. Waiting for my supper.

I’m still waiting, mama!

Well. I don’t wait for supper very long because I tell her off if I have to wait for that! Anyway, we had a wonderful time in the woods, and there’s proof of spring popping out all over!

Spring is hiding in the woods, ready to surprise us if we look!

Mama says if we just wait a bit it will probably snow again, and I wouldn’t mind that at all, but daddy says enough is enough, he’s ready to get on his big riding mower and take a spin around the yard! And mama says it’s time to clean up the gardens.

She says we have a lot of work to do out there.

Hey mama! You brought treats…right??

I don’t know who this we is that she’s referring to. She’s probably hired help or something.

I’m watching you, mama!

Of course I’ll be out there to supervise. Royal responsibilities never end. Talk later, I need to get rested up for the upcoming royal weeding.

–Your favorite weather girl (and princess), Katie.


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Battling Driver Fatigue

One of the things about the trucking industry that makes no sense to me is the way many commercial truck drivers are paid. They get paid by the mile. The more miles they can fit into a work day the more they are paid. It’s on the drivers (and sometimes dispatchers) to figure out how to get the most miles into their day.

It’s a fundamental problem underlying many of our safety concerns surrounding fatigued driving.

For years those of us in the truck safety family have known this, but the pay structure for drivers is so entrenched in the industry’s business model it wasn’t even open for discussion. Lately there’s been some discussion about the unpaid waiting times drivers have to tolerate at many shipper’s and receiver’s loading docks.

In fact, there’s starting to be a swell of voices, some from within the industry, some from safety advocates, about the responsibility sections of the supply chain have been avoiding for years. There’s no cost to a company shipping product if the driver of the truck hauling that product is held up waiting to be loaded. There’s no cost to the retailer if the driver has to wait hours to unload.

The cost rest squarely on the truck driver’s shoulders, because they are not paid for those hours. They’re only paid if their wheels are rolling. And if they spend hours waiting while watching their income be frittered away, they will generally driver longer and faster to make that income up.

And that’s the risk to all of us.

My dad, sitting in traffic, was a victim of a truck driver driving all night to try to earn a living. Dad isn’t the only one to die because of the way drivers are paid. There are thousands of families just like mine.

Approximately 5,000 people die annually in crashes with commercial trucks. Eight hundred truck drivers die every year. Not all of these crashes are fatigue related. But a lot are. There’s no box on the police accident report to indicate fatigue was a factor in a crash, and we know that fatigue is grossly underreported.

We can add all the safety features invented to a commercial truck, but if we don’t fix the way they’re paid, if we don’t reduce the need to get a full day of wages by working more than a full day of hours, then the fatigue risk will always be there.

But now, finally, there is some movement in Congress to address this problem. Representative Andy Levin (from Michigan!) introduced H.R. 7517, the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act (GOT Truckers Act), which would void the exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act that exempts truck drivers from receiving overtime.

And here’s where you can help. Please email your House of Representatives member, and ask them to cosponsor H.R.7517 to allow truck drivers to be paid overtime. You can find the name and website of your Member of Congress here.

This bill won’t fix all the issues surrounding fatigue in the trucking industry, but it’s a start. Let’s see if we can raise our voices for the safety of everyone. Truck drivers included.

Thank you, as always, for your support. I recently did a birthday Facebook fundraiser for the Truck Safety Coalition, setting my goal at $400. I raised $1,000. I have the best friends. If you happen to have missed it and want to tip me over that $1,000 mark, the fundraiser is up for a couple more days. And if you donated already, thank you soooooo much.

You guys make me smile. I think Dad’s smiling too.


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Adventure-girl

Katie here. You knew it was going to be me, right? Cause who else do you know that loves an adventure as much as me?

This is mama’s artsy-fartsy image of me racing up a hill.

Saturday mama and I went to walk with my friend Queen Abby’s mom. You might remember that Abby got her wings in January of this year, so her mom has been a little sad. We thought maybe getting to walk together, even without the Queen, might make her feel better.

Abby would have loved this park.

I have to say it was kind of hard to be out there without Abby, but we think maybe she was with us even though she wasn’t physically pulling on the leash.

I pulled on the leash enough for both of us.

It was a perfect day for a walk!

We met at a state park I’ve never visited before, and there were a couple of trails we walked, mostly through the woods. I think I walked over a mile! It was so cold that the mamas wished they’d brought heavier clothes, but I was a happy girl, trotting up ahead of them most of the time, even up the hills!

Not going to look at you, mama!

It was such a pretty park, with winding trails and roads and it even had a campground, which of course mama had to explore.

And then we walked down near the lake. It was much windier there and I wasn’t sure about the waves blowing in. I didn’t want to stand close to them just for mama to take another picture

Don’t like those waves sneaking up from behind me!

So I didn’t.

Nope, not going to sit this close to those waves!

But I chose a spot just a little bit away from the pesky waves and let mama take one more picture.

Hurry up mama, let’s not waste any more time on silly pictures!

And then the mamas sat on a bench and talked and I took a little nap on the cement underneath. It was nice and cool and the wind ruffled my fur and I was so happy!

I wasn’t really sleeping, I was just resting my eyes.

This was the longest car ride I’ve been on since I got sick. At first I thought I was going to the vet and I was scared. But mama stopped at a rest area on the way so I could walk around and stuff. That never happens on the way to the vet, so I began to get excited.

Let’s explore up this way!

And once I was at the park and walking with the mamas I was sooooooo happy! I pranced all over that park and couldn’t stop grinning.

I smiled all day!

Thanks, mamas, for taking me on a grand adventure that was the perfect size for my status! Why, I’m still dreaming about it today!

NOW I’m sleeping! But still smiling!