Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Stress relief

Stress seems to be hovering over me like that dark cloud that follows cartoon characters.  Between Katie’s surgery and her cone of shame, my shoulder which is requiring physical therapy three times a week, and our Aunt’s move to a nursing home, it feels like the days are filled with concerns and difficult decisions.



Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming.

I don’t remembered even noticing the sky the past few weeks, but as I left the house yesterday  the clouds struck me as kind of pretty.  The weather was changing fast, the wind blowing the clouds around and the sun popping out for brief moments of brilliant light which moved like a spotlight across the yard.

Grabbing my camera I knew I didn’t have time to go far before the sky would be totally cloud covered and we’d be sunk once again into the grey that is often  a Michigan December afternoon.  I headed toward the closest wide open country around here, not sure what I’d find, but hopeful.

And I was right.  Barns, clouds, fields, all pretty in the changing light.



I haven’t been on a barn hunt in months….maybe even a year.  It seems fitting that I get one more mini adventure in this year and that it revolve around barns.


And a church.



I was only out there an hour, and the weight of the camera made my shoulder ache, but it was wonderful.  Recent problems fell away and it was just me chasing the light through crisp air and skies filled with heavy navy clouds.

I guess it’s worth remembering to do something you love as often as possible.  It helps to deal with all the other stuff if you give yourself a break now and then.



Happy New Year everybody!  May we all work through the problems that will inevitably come along, and may we balance those out with moments of pure joy doing the things that make us happiest.






When I grow up

I think that I want to be a little old lady living in a little house in the woods when I grow up.

I met one once; she was a wiry little thing who had come to volunteer at a community garden I regularly worked, and over weeding we got to talking.   She started describing a large garden down in a more urban setting where people paid a nominal fee to have a plot of land available to them to grow whatever they wished.  I asked to visit it, and the next week I met her over there.

The garden reminded me of a giant patchwork quilt, as every square was different.  Some were full of flowers but most were full of a variety of vegetables.  My new friend told me almost everything she ate for the entire year was grown on her little patch of leased land.  She had mastered compact gardening long before it became a fad and was growing potatoes in a bottomless five gallon bucket.  She had all sorts of things jammed in her lot, and she gave me one, most beautiful, beet to take home for supper.  It was amazingly good.

Anyway, she’s one person I think of when I long to live a more simple life, one where I grow what I eat, spend days working in the garden, sitting on my porch (my little house in the woods has to have a porch), watching my birds, reading good books, taking naps.  Though I highly doubt the lady I met ever takes a nap.

Another role model I have, someone I’d like to grow up to be ‘just like,’ is a runner friend of mine who is approaching her 70’s and still running marathons.  We call her our “energizer Betty” because she just keeps going and going.  Those of us younger all want to grow up just like her.   She has thirteen grandchildren and she keeps up with them all.  Though sometimes I know after they go home she does take a nap.

I’ve been lucky to have met women who live their lives in a manner I covet; healthy, active, peaceful, content.  In my hectic world it’s good to see that life in the slow lane has it’s benefits, that it’s OK to aspire to something slower, calmer and more centered.

Here’s to all the wiry little old ladies out there living in little (or not so little) houses in the woods (or not in the woods) who are enjoying their lives to the fullest.

When I grow up I’m going to be just like you.


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.



Maybe it's just the weather

Yesterday at work during my ‘lunch’ break I went for a walk.  It’s the first walk I’ve done at work since winter set in.  I don’t know how far I went – it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I got out of my beige cube, away from my dual computer screens and into the fresh air.

I talked to myself the entire walk, past the condos full of retired people, the elementary school with children running and squealing on the playground, the bigger homes quiet with everyone away at work and school.  Past the bits of wooded areas, filled with frolicking squirrels and a flock of robins bob bob bobbing along.  I reminded myself that I actually have it pretty good.  That none of the things that are bothering me are anything major and really, compared to many, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.   I reminded myself that you’re supposed to be able to choose to be happy and I just needed to get to getting with that.

“Happy happy happy” I repeated in my mind, in time to my steps.  That’s right…I’m just happy happy happy.  Darn.  My knee starts to hurt.  And my shoes are old and not as comfy as they should be.  Wait a minute…I’m happy happy happy.

And I was, as long as I was walking AWAY from the office!  Just like Katie when it came time for me to turn around and head back I was less than thrilled.  If someone had me on a leash and was urging me to get back in the car to go home, I’d have sat down and refused.  But I had to be the responsible adult.  So I went back to the office.

Still, the little walk made the day brighter.  But this morning taking Katie out I felt a little twinge in the knee.  Wait a minute..I forgot.

I’m happy happy happy.




Moon over Michigan

Did you go outside to see the moon last night?  In my part of the world we had a “super moon” which is when the moon’s orbital path is as close to the earth as possible at a time that coincides with it being full.  That makes it appears to us earthlings as being bigger than normal.

Well of course Katie and I had to see that!  The TV weather guy said it would be up at 8:07.  We went out at 8:10…nothing…and it wasn’t till after 9:30 that we finally saw the moon hanging in the trees across the street.

Sure it looked pretty.  And maybe bigger.  But I remember a time in the early 80’s, when I lived in Houghton in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, when the full moon rose over the mountain and was so big that I ran back inside the house, grabbed my camera, and drove a mile up the mountain to an overlook in order to see it better.  That moon was HUGE; it filled the sky just like in the movies.   It was incredible.   And of course it didn’t look like anything special in the photos I got back from the film processor later in the week.

I guess sometimes special things just can’t be kept anywhere but in our own memories.


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.)


Misty eyed

Last night a blogger friend had to let a wonderful, sweet, lovable sheltie-girl named Misty go free.  Though we all knew Misty was having some health issues, she’d rallied lately…and we hoped with all our hearts that she’d see another spring.  But it wasn’t to be.

I didn’t go online this morning like I usually do, to visit  blogs while I eat my breakfast; maybe I knew that things might not be going well in Misty’s world…or maybe I was just extra busy.  So it was at work that I began to wonder how Misty was doing, checked Sara’s blog and immediately began to cry.

I never got to meet Misty in person, but she will always have a small part of my heart.  I’m glad she got to go on that great vacation with her brother Oreo (the sheltie-maniac) and her folks this past summer, to spend time along the ocean, sniff the beautiful hydrangeas, take a boat ride.

I’ll always remember the tricks she did, especially the circus elephant, and the way she ran with Oreo through the agility courses Sara set up in the back yard.  I remember someone telling Sara that Misty was a distraction to Oreo when he was in training, and that she should be put inside.  Well maybe she was a distraction but I’m glad now that she got to run and jump as much as she wanted to.

And all this thinking about the beautiful blue merle Misty-girl makes me think about how the world has changed with social networking; how most of us would never have met Misty and her family, would never have laughed out loud at video clips of her trying to do figure eights between her Mom’s legs, or sigh with her in contentment when she found a sunny spot in the yard.  Most of us would never have delighted in her attempts to figure out the latest game or trick, or smiled at her patience when her crazy brother Oreo jumped over her and then back again trying to win a treat if we hadn’t had been lucky enough to be able to read Sara’s blog.

And when the news isn’t so happy, when it makes your heart break and the tears run down your cheeks at work, you might be tempted, for an instant, to withdraw from this blogger world…because you just  become so attached, and being attached leaves you open to feeling such sadness.  But as another blog friend Ellen has said…if you work or live or play in the dog world you’re going to get your heart broken…the more dogs you know, the more dogs you’re going to miss someday.  She’s right.  But she’s also right when she reminds us that it’s all worth it.

So…Misty-girl.  I’m going to miss you.  So much.   I can’t even begin to imagine how your Mom and Dad are feeling tonight.  And poor little Oreo must be so confused.  But even though I’m getting all misty-eyed again,   I have to say that you were worth it.  I’d get to know you all over again if I could.  Even knowing that we’d all have to say goodbye too soon.

Be happy Misty.  Go find Munchkin.  None of us will ever forget you.  And thanks to your Mom for sharing you with us.  Sweet girl.


Purple memories

Today is the 2 year anniversary of the death of a young woman, killed when a tire flew off of a truck and smashed through the windshield of her car.  She was driving on the beltway near Washington DC, on her way to a doctor’s appointment because she was pregnant with her first child.  She and her unborn child were killed instantly.

Channing’s mother Tracy has become a friend of mine; she’s someone I never would have met if it weren’t for our common tragedy.  A couple of days ago Tracy emailed to remind us all of the anniversary coming up and to ask us to wear purple, Channings favorite color, in her honor today.

All day long Channing has been on my mind.  And as the TV and radio celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inaugural it occurred to me that two years ago was President Obama’s inaugural.  And that Channing was driving in Washington DC on that historic day.  That she died on that historic day.  Somehow that made the loss worse, though I don’t know why.  To die on a day of such excitement and expectation seems so wrong.  Of course it all seems so wrong.

All day long today I noticed other people wearing purple.  People who didn’t know Channing’s story, people that don’t even know my story.  And each time I caught a glimpse of purple I thought of her, and the waste of potential that is her loss.

Tonight I’ll be emailing Channing’s mom, offering her my condolences, and knowing it isn’t enough.  Knowing that nothing will ever  be enough.

Here’s to Channing’s family today.  May they be comforted that we haven’t forgotten her, and that her spirit lives with us all.



We watched the news coming out of Tucson yesterday with horror.  That an elected official could be doing her job, making herself accessible to the people in her district and yet be in such danger is something I’d not wanted to think about.

But it needs to be thought about.

Did last years bitterly fought health care debates where ludicrous concepts were thrown about as truth fuel the gunman’s hate?  Maybe it was Arizona’s difficult  discussions about immigration or the acrimonious November elections?  Perhaps the 24/7 talking heads on television incited his rage.

Or maybe this young man is mentally ill.   Maybe he would have behaved the same whether or not our country was arguing so vehemently among itself.  Right now, so early in the investigation it’s impossible to know.

We do know this: Though U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is likely to survive this assignation attempt, survivability is different than recovery.  And even as our hearts lifted at news she was following commands after surgery the reality is that her life has been changed forever.

And perhaps ours should change as well.  Maybe we should be less naive.  Maybe America can’t be as free as we’d like.  Maybe elected officials have to maintain more space, be more protected from regular folks.  Maybe they will have to ride around in  pope-mobiles, wave from distant windows, talk to us only from our TV.

I hope not; I want to be able to talk face-to-face with decision makers.  That’s who we Americans are, why this country is different from so many other places in the world.  But still.  Would a little more defensive protection have prevented the gunman from harming Gabrielle Giffords and the other 17 people killed or injured?  Would a security detail have been enough to save the  nine year old girl,  the federal judge, or the others  who died?  How much security is enough?  Or too much?

It’s obvious we have to change.  This is going to take much thought and debate and I hope it doesn’t turn into a partisan fight.  Meanwhile the best that we can offer today is our hopes and prayers that all the survivors make full recoveries.  And send deeply sad condolences to the families of those that did not.


93 meets 2 weeks

Christmas weekend we had my husband’s extended family here for dinner.  More than thirty people, including 2 newborns and the oldest member of the family, the 93 year old aunt, arrived the day after Christmas to celebrate family.

After a big meal of roast beef, ham and all the fixings we sat around the living room in a big circle while the two oldest members of the family told stories about their history.  Most everyone, except the little kids playing with new toys,  listened and asked questions about what it was like to grow up on a cold, rural Minnesota farm more than 80 years ago.  Though my husband and I have heard many of these stories before most of the younger generation, those we only see once a year, have never heard them.  One of the young fathers videoed the discussion because we all realize as family members get older our chances to hear these stories first hand become more rare.

So this holiday weekend we prompted them – drawing out the stories that made us laugh, made us think, made us grateful for the lives we have now.  It was a magical evening, one we’re lucky to have shared.

And as I watched my husband’s aunt that evening I wondered what it felt like to be 93 and spending an evening with young people and their even younger children.  What does it feel like to have 93 years of history in your head?  Are you wistful when you hold a newborn?  Are you transported in time when you watch a toddler more entranced with the box than the new toy he unwrapped?  Are you memorizing new memories or are you overwhelmed with thoughts of times gone by?

When the youngsters became too tired to play and started to head out for home, they each gave the eldest among us a hug.  Four generations sitting in one room telling stories, laughing, talking, remembering.  A special evening during a special weekend with special people.  Priceless.