Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Happy Mother's Day!

Mother’s Day has rolled around again, our 7th one without her. In years past I’ve been pretty successful at ignoring the day, averting my eyes when going by the card section at the grocery store, turning the channel when an advertisement comes on the television.

This year it doesn’t seem to be such a painful day, and I can feel happy for other people and other mothers.  Sure I still miss my own, but I can appreciate the day for what it is, a celebration of women everywhere.  And I recognize how very lucky we were to have the Mom we did for as long as we did.

So Happy Mother’s Day to you all of you!  I hope it’s all sunshine and happy moments – enjoy your day!


A walk in the Arb


Last night I was in Ann Arbor watching the University of Michigan’s Brigadoon with my Aunt.  This morning, before driving back to home I took myself for a walk in the arboretum, a park on the banks of the Huron River.

As I got out of the car I was met by these two.  They were welcoming me to the park.

I was looking for spring, and there were a few signs.

I was out early, and the park was full of animals and birds, but no other people.  I saw a little red squirrel chasing a bigger brown squirrel, and above them was a red tailed hawk just squawking away.  Then I heard footsteps behind me; a little herd of deer was passing me on the hill, coming up from the river.  They looked at me, I looked at them, and I think we all smiled, it was such a beautiful morning even though the sky was heavy with clouds and the threat of rain.

I moved along, looking for more signs of spring.  If you looked closely you could see quite a bit of green.

And I was thinking of Diana when I took this photo; it reminded me of snakes.

Eventually I got back to the memorial to my parents that sits near the canoe landing.

Even though it’s been there a few years now it still makes my heart beat faster when I first see it.  I wish they were walking in the Arb with me, but I guess in a sense they are.

This is the canoe landing near their stone.  Pretty, ey?

Nearby was a downed ash tree, with the pretty but fatal marks of the ash borer that killed it.

And another friendly goose.  My Mom always liked the Canadian geese that visited her dock down in Alabama.

Then I looked just down the river and saw this graffiti on the train trestle.

It seemed fitting.  So I did.


How do you see the future when you're 95?

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day with husband’s 95 year old aunt.  She needed to go grocery shopping, she needed to find a pair of slacks to replace some she’s had since the 50’s and mostly she needed to get out in the fresh air after weeks of being cooped up in her apartment through a most difficult winter.

Though she’s in amazing shape for someone her age I can see that she gets worn out faster than she did just a year ago.  This time she allowed me to go back over to the other side of the large grocery store to pick up something we had forgotten.  Last summer we would have walked over there together.  She actually waited in the car while I ran into another store to pick up birdseed for her parakeet.  She never would have done that last summer.  And she leaned heavily on the cart at a clothing store, then sat in the dressing room while I went back and forth with items for her to try on.

Back in her apartment she was talking about people in her building that have moved into assisted living facilities.  There were three from her floor recently.  The reality of  aging is beginning to effect her, both physically and mentally.

Generally she’s a pretty upbeat person, but more and more when I call she’s having a “bad day” and doesn’t want to do anything, or even have a visitor.  I don’t recall her ever turning down an invite before.

All of this has me thinking about what it must be like to be 95.  To realize that there aren’t going to be years and years ahead of you.  To realize that you can’t do much of anything that you used to love to do….that you’re lonely but don’t really want to socialize.  That you’re bored but can’t see enough to do much of anything, even to really see the TV.

How does a person in this situation stay motivated to actively engage in life?  How can I introduce more variety to her life, keep her active in a safe way, challenge her mind?

Last week she asked me if the assisted living places let you bring your own furniture.  I realize I need to research these places so that when the time comes, and it may be sooner rather than later, I can help make the transition as easy as it can be.

Meanwhile I’m already missing my partner in adventure.  We used to just head out and see where we ended up.  Not so much now.  A combination of me working a lot, her having bad days, and nasty weather has really cut into our adventure time. But I’m hoping we have a couple more adventures in our future.

Before she has to make that big move.



The art of writing letters

Writing letters… is that something that disappeared in my mother’s time?  Have twitter, facebook, bloging and emails eliminated the time worn tradition of touching base through paper and a stamp?  Does instant automatically equal better?

I’ve been considering these issues because I used to love to write letters.  And I grew up in a letter writing household.  Though we lived only a hour away from my Grandmother, my Mom wrote a postcard to her every week.  Mom’s writing was tiny and got tinier as the space in the postcard began to fill up.  I remember her finishing the last sentence by running it up the edge of the postcard, and I used to wonder if my Grandma used a magnifying glass to read them.

In turn, many years later when my Mom lived in Alabama and I was still here in Michigan I restarted the tradition.  Bonnie the sheltie-girl and I would get up every Saturday and write Mom a letter, using a computer and regularly sized paper, which we hurried out to the mailbox so that the mailman would pick it up that morning and she’d have it by Wednesday.

We did this every week for years…until email happened along.  When we found the almost instant connection the letters dwindled.  Yet after her death I found all those letters I had sent bound together, safe in her desk.  Through my tears I recognized the value of a letter, the way you can touch them over and over, knowing they were touched by the person who took the time to send them to you.  They are tangible evidence of thoughtfulness and care and love.

So I was intrigued by a challenge presented by PJ on her blog Books in Northport.  She challenged all of us to slow down a bit and commit to mailing one letter a week to someone between now and Memorial Day in May.  It doesn’t have to be the same someone.  You can choose to mail a letter to someone different each week.  You can delight many people.

Like I was delighted this week when in the mail arrived a card from Bree, Reilly’s Mom.  She makes handmade cards which are lovely, and she sent one to me because she knew I would be a bit depressed by all the snow here after my wonderful week in sunny New Mexico.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  The unexpected, the smile that comes in the mail, the realization that someone thought about you and took some time to send you something to tell you so.

Reilly’s Mom just had a contest to give away some of her artwork.  I’m hoping those that won the cards will use them to brighten someone’s day…one card at a time, one note at a time, one stamp at a time.

I’ve accepted PJ’s challenge and mailed my first letter to a friend I’ve been out of touch with last week.  This week I have someone else in mind.  When I think about it, there are a whole lot of people that I’d like to touch base with more often than the Christmas letter.

I bet if you think about it you have a whole list of people that would enjoy hearing from you too.  Why not join me in the challenge.  If you have time to spend 30 minutes watching TV during the week you have time to touch someone’s life, to bring a smile to a face, to let someone know they were thought of.

Pretty cool.  And thanks Bree!

(All cards photographed here are Bree’s artwork.)


Cheese and olive sandwiches

This morning as I made my lunch I deviated from my usual PB&J.  I made an old favorite, a sandwich my Mom used to make for me way back in high school, cheese and olive.  Cheddar, Miracle Whip and sliced green olives, it sounds like a heart attack on wheat and I suppose it is.  I only eat this once in a very long while and I have no idea why today was the day.  But it sure was good.

It brought back all sorts of memories of my Mom asking us all (and there were four of us!) what sort of sandwich we wanted in our lunch the next day.  I can’t believe she actually made separate and widely disparate sandwiches, one for each of us.  I remember one of my brothers wanted cheese and jelly, which I always thought sounded terrible…of course he probably thought cheese and olives sounded terrible.

I wonder if parents make their kids lunches anymore.  Or do they all buy those little lunchable things…or give them money for hot lunch?  We were too frugal for hot lunch very often…but we got to eat from the cafeteria line on occassion.  I always made sure I wasn’t eating the hot lunch on Fridays because Fridays always meant fish sticks.  Need I say more?

What are your favorite (or not so favorite) memories of lunch in public school?  Today I smiled while I ate one of my all time favorite sandwiches with memories of Mom on the side.

A great combination if I do say so myself.


Six years to say goodbye

Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of Dad’s death. He was killed while driving to the airport, on the way north to visit family for Christmas.  He was killed by a sleepy truck driver who didn’t notice that traffic had stopped.  He was killed because some people put profit over safety.

I wasn’t going to blog about it.  No one wants to read a sad blog two days before Christmas.   We should be concentrating on package wrapping, grocery shopping, tree decorating.  But the reason we do all that is for family, and sometimes family has to travel to be together.  And sometimes traveling is not so safe.

This morning as I was lying in bed thinking that I had survived another anniversary I began to feel sad that I hadn’t written about Dad.  As if ignoring the anniversary in public somehow lessened the loss or his worth.  Which is, of course, not true.  And it’s also not true that I didn’t think about him all day yesterday, because of course I did.  And compounding all these thoughts was the fact that  yesterday my brother was driving to the airport and flying up to stay with us for the holiday weekend.  It was a complicated layer filled emotional day.

And the point is that though the pain recedes it never goes away, and though the fight to make our roads safer, to enforce the laws that are on the books and to pass new, even safer laws never ends, we’re all made of pretty strong stock, and we’ll keep fighting through the pain.

Next year on this anniversary I want to be able to say that we’ve made progress with the length of time a  truck driver can legally drive, that we’re closer to having on-board recorders that make it harder to cheat on the hours of service rule, that we’ve stopped bigger, heavier trucks from being allowed to roam freely across the country.

For now I’m happy that Dad’s picture, along with many others, hangs in the offices of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  And that the Truck Safety Coalition is a constant reminder to them (and sometimes a bur under their skin) of the importance and urgency of their work.  It’s not enough but it’s a beginning. I’m thinking we’ve already saved lives and Dad would be proud.

Meanwhile, all of you traveling this holiday weekend…be careful out there.


Missing Mom

During all the hustle and bustle of this holiday season I’m taking a small quiet moment to miss my Mom.  I know I’m not alone.  Many of you out there are heading into another Christmas season without a Mom.  So I feel bad whining about missing my own.  Still, it’s my blog and I can whine if I want to.

Last night I was putting ornaments on the tree.  Husband was off to a big box store looking for plumbing parts – no, he wasn’t Christmas shopping for my gift – so I was alone with the tree and a big box full of memories.  So much of what we hang on our trees are memories.  The ornament from childhood, the one that was a gift from family.  As I contemplated the perfect spot on the tree for each I smiled.  Mom would have liked these birds in nests…a cousin gave me this box of ceramic ornaments years ago…I remember when my sister and I shopped for these glass stars.

Then I found a box filled with tissue paper, the only ornament inside a glass santa.  And suddenly I remembered the last time my Mom was here, just before Christmas in 2003, when we went up to  Bronners giant Christmas store and I saw this little Santa ornament.  I told her I thought it was like one that her mother always had on the tree years ago.  So Mom bought it for me.

This year as I put the little glass Santa in a prime spot, high up  on the front of the tree, I felt that old familiar pang.  I miss my Mom.  And I think about how she must have missed her own Mom all those years after Grandma died, though I never asked her about it.   I wish I had.

So this Christmas I hope they’re hanging ornaments on a tree together, reminiscing about Christmas days gone by.  And eating Mom’s famous cranberry jello, the one with the big globe grapes and crunch celery.

Merry Christmas Mom.  I’m making that cranberry jello again this year.  And I’ll be thinking about you.