Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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A photo a week photo challenge: Red

This is the time of year, at least here in the Upper Midwest, when we could use a bit of color. So I was happy to see this week’s photo challenge was “red!

As I chopped stuff for my morning oatmeal today I thought about where I could go to look for some red. Red isn’t so easy to find in early March in Michigan. Maybe I should drive to my favorite park and look for a cardinal. But I’ve taken plenty of pictures of birds before. I needed something different.

And then I looked down and began to laugh.

Yep, sometimes you don’t have to venture far from home to find what you’re looking for.

I hope you have a great day and that you find a little color in your life too!


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A roller coaster week

Katie here. You might have noticed that mama hasn’t posted in a week. That’s like 7 weeks in dog math, and almost unprecedented! I’ve been noticing a distinct lack of smiles on mama’s face too, so I decided I needed to take action.

A little snow always makes the world look better.

And this morning, when it started to snow I knew just what I had to do.

I had to get mama off the sofa and out into the snow! Cause who doesn’t like snow? I mean, what’s not to like? It’s white and clean and fluffy. Mama says it’s also cold. And wet. And a precursor to mud.

Yep, a little bit of snow makes everything look better.

Mama tends to get a bit negative toward the end of winter.

Anyway, we went out and explored the backyard. It was simply beautiful, even mama had to agree. And it wasn’t all that wet and cold either. I thought maybe, just maybe, mama would smile.

While mama was busy with her camera, I was busy breaking up sticks. It’s a never ending job.

And she did lighten up a bit when she was focused on that silly camera of hers and all the pretty things in the yard.

Pretty in white.

Including me, of course.

Just the perfect amount of snow to play in.

But you know what really got her to smile? It was these little green nubby things she found in one of her gardens.

Huh…green made mama smile!

And the three red winged blackbirds that sang to us just as we headed back inside. She said that was really worth smiling over!

Though I have to say I should get more credit. Cause really, a sheltie in the snow? That has to make you all smile!

Admit it. I just made you smile.

PS: Mama says that she was feeling very sad because a friend’s sheltie crossed the rainbow bridge Monday and he was just about exactly my age and she feels really really sad for his mom and human brother. Mama almost didn’t let me post today because she was worried it might make the mom even more sad. But I said that we could send our love to her this way, and if she ever needs a sheltie hug I’m available. I hope she’s doing OK, though I know her eyes are probably leaking right now. I wish I could make it all better for her.

Thinking about our friend on this snowy morning.


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Music decompression smile

You know how astronauts, when they come back to earth, need a period of time to adjust to their normal lives again? Though I haven’t been orbiting the earth that’s how I feel now that I’m back in Michigan after twelve lovely days in the sun.

Not to say there’s never any sun here. But it seems to be rare. And it hasn’t stopped snowing since we arrived home. Today the windchill temperatures will be in the single digits, and the driveway needs to be cleared of last night’s snow. Perhaps we can just wait until it melts sometime in April.

I’m still battling the major cold I got while I was out there enjoying the sun. I’m not blaming Arizona for my cold, I figure I got it on the plane ride home from Washington DC the week before. I almost always get some sort of sniffle after I fly, but this one is a doozy.

I’ve been taking over the counter drugs every four hours for more than a week. The cough is low in my chest and the tickle in my throat is constant. I should buy stock in Kleenex and my nose is raw.

I’m pretty miserable.

We took the red-eye flight home from Phoenix on Sunday night. Our plane left at midnight and we arrived in Detroit at 5:00 a.m. By the time we got our luggage and got out to the car we were looking at driving home in rush hour traffic. Yep, that was fun.

I got a couple of hours of sleep at home, then went to pick up the Princess from camp. I hoped that she would be exhausted from all the fun she had and we could all settle down to a long winter nap.

I was wrong.

So anyway, by the time Tuesday night’s community band rehearsal came around I was really dragging. And I still couldn’t breath well, was still taking drugs to function. And I hadn’t practiced in almost two weeks. I really wanted to stay home.

But have I told you that we have a concert in one week?

So I went, not expecting to be able to stay the entire two hours. Uncertain if I could even play. And guess what?

The music filled me up with such peace. Even the hard parts. We didn’t sound too bad, and though there are definitely places we each need to work on before next Tuesday, some of the time we sounded quite beautiful. And my head cleared and my throat stopped hurting and I only coughed once.

That’s the power of music.

So this is a long post to relay a simple idea. If you’re feeling down, emotionally or physically, if you’re stressed and tired and worn out, if you need to get through another cold, dark, snowy day, well…play some music. Whether it’s on the radio, or your mobile device or an actual instrument or your very own voice, play some music.

It’ll make you smile. And that’s the first step to feeling better.

Guaranteed.


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Where the antelope play

I left you last in the wide open spaces of Monument Valley, where you can see for miles across a desert spiked with rock formations that lend themselves to imaginative interpretations.

Kind of looks like a fort, doesn’t it?

And what’s the opposite of wide open spaces? Why slot canyons, of course!

Don’t you just want to go inside and see what’s in there?

A slot canyon is exactly what it sounds like, a narrow canyon formed by wind and water, winding it’s way through rock.

You’ve probably seen photos taken in slot canyons, the orange, reds and greys swirling rock and light together. The images look like modern art.

The sunlight coming down from the top illuminates parts of the canyon.

And if you’re a photographer or a painter you’ve wanted to see one of these for yourself.

One of the largest ‘rooms’ in the canyon.

I know I’ve always wanted to.

The colors all swirl around each other.

So I was excited when we were able to book a tour to one of the Antelope Canyons near Page, Arizona.

It looks like the set of some sci-fi movie.

I didn’t really know what to expect.

I couldn’t do this with a paintbrush, much less with wind and water.

But we were lucky, our group was small and our guide was all about photography. He stopped us at several places and told us where to look for the iconic shot.

Every corner we rounded caused new gasps of wonder.

He even suggested camera settings and took a few pictures of each of us using our cameras.

The texture was unbelievable.

I wasn’t sure what I got until that evening when I downloaded the images. There were a few that made me stop and say ‘oh’ and then grin.

I can’t tell if I was shooting straight up, or along a wall. Doesn’t matter, it was beautiful in every direction.

I hope they made you grin too.

You’re smiling…right?

And for absolutely sure, if you’re near Page you need to get yourself booked on a tour. Try to go in the off season so you get a smaller group, but go, no matter when you can go, just go.

Do you see the heart?

Camera or no camera, you’re going to be in awe as you walk through these canyons. And you won’t forget it, guaranteed.

All that rock carved into beautiful shapes and hidden away waiting to be found.

One more post about this Southwest trip is coming up. Stay tuned.

What’s over there?

Meanwhile…Katie-girl, we’re coming home soon sweetheart. I’ll make it up to you I promise.

One last look.


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Valley smiles

We’ve been in the west a week now, and every post I do about our travels out here should be connected to Trent’s weekly smile post because there are smiles just about everywhere I look!

The landscape gets more dramatic.

When I last left you we were in the painted desert which was beautiful in an entirely different way from the next places we visited. I don’t remember ever visiting Monument Valley before, so I was excited to see if it was as dramatic as they made it seem in all those old cowboy movies.

We actually turned around to get this shot, all the different terrain in one image. Pretty amazing.

It is.

But first we happened on the Valley of the Gods, which is just a little dirt road off of Highway 163 in Bluff Utah. We missed the road the first time we went by. There’s just one little old faded sign with an arrow telling you to turn down a nondescript dirt road.

Beginning the dusty drive through the Valley of the Gods. This was the only water we saw.

If you’re ever out in this part of the world, and you’re driving an SUV, not a low riding car, and it’s not raining, because the sign said the road was impassible if wet, then I highly recommend you take the hour or two or three it will take you to meander through this country.

The red against the sky was perfect in the afternoon sun.

There were huge towers of stone everywhere. It’s the kind of place that would make for wonderful night photography.

Imagine this with stars behind it.

But it also might be kind of scary to be out there alone in the dark.

Going through the Valley of the Gods was so worth it, even if it did put us behind getting to Monument Valley.

Monument Valley from the visitor center parking lot.

We drove up to the gate about 4:00, and they ‘close’ at 5:00. The woman was glad to take our $20 though and said we had plenty of time to drive the loop, even if “we were headed back out by 5:30 the gate would still be open.”

Just like in the movies.

We figured we’d start and see how far we got before we were kicked out. Plus the low sun made everything shine.

You can even ride a horse and pretend you’re IN the movies. That’s “three sisters” behind the horse stable.

It’s about here that I lost my phone, getting in and out of the car to get pictures. But I didn’t realize it yet.

Around the next corner was a stone monument I call the ‘broken finger’ because it looks so much like my right hand with it’s broken (and sort of crooked now) little finger.

I identified with this one. Ouch.

The light was starting to go, making everything even more dramatic.

More shadows now.

When I got back in the car after that last shot I realized I didn’t have my phone. I started walking back along the road frantically looking. No luck. We tried to remember the last picture I had taken with the phone and narrowed it down to three stops where I might have lost it.

This is the actual, not retouched, color that the stone was turning as the sun went down.

We drove around the last loop again, as fast as we could go over the rocky, bumpy, dusty road. No luck. My stomach hurt and I felt sick.

Can’t beat late afternoon light in the desert.

I didn’t feel like taking any more pictures. But my husband said, rightly so, we couldn’t change anything, so we should try to enjoy the last of the light.

It’s like someone created these scenes just to cheer me up.

And so we did, though my stomach still hurt and I was so sad that my phone was out there in the cold desert all alone. I know. That sounds silly. But that’s how I felt.

The big picture of Monument Valley at sundown.

No one ever came by to ask us to leave and there were plenty of people still in the Valley even at 6 when the last bit of light left the sky.

The last of the light as we left the Valley.

In fact, up at the visitor center there were a couple dozen photographers with their fancy cameras and tripods waiting for that last purple light. We waited there with them.

The end of a day filled with stress.

And when the light was finally gone we drove the 4 miles to our hotel, and sitting in our room my husband, for whatever reason, called my phone. And someone answered it. Turns out the visitor center has a hotel and someone found my phone and turned it in to the front desk. And the front desk guy heard it ring and answered.

Happy dance! My husband drove right back over there and picked it up. I am so grateful to that anonymous couple, and don’t you just love a happy ending?

Me too.

So where will we be next? You’ll have to wait and see. But I can tell you it is amazing. I don’t know if I’ll get it posted before we get home but it will be worth the wait.

Guaranteed.

On the road again…


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A crater and petrified wood and the painted desert – oh my!

Here I am, still trying to catch you all up. It’s hard when there’s so much to see. I’ll try not to rush you, but really we need to move along.

The view from the visitor center located on the rim of the crater, looking back over the desert.

So let’s visit Meteor Crater near Winslow Arizona. It’s a natural landmark that is privately owned by the decedents of the man who homesteaded the area way back in the 1800s.

Wind erosion is slowly filling the crater in.

The crater was made when a meteor hit the earth about 50,000 years ago. It’s about 3/4 of a mile wide and over 500 feet deep.

There’s an information center with a movie about the discovery and exploration of the crater over the years, a very large fragment of the actual meteor that you can touch, and guided tours along the rim.

Our guide, Priscilla.

I remember visiting when I was a kid, maybe in the late 60s. It’s much the same, though the guide told us there has been significant erosion which is one reason they don’t let people wander on their own there anymore.

Following our guide to the next point of interest.

Even though it’s kind of expensive, it was $20 each for us, a $2 discount because we were over 60, it’s worth going if you’re ever out there.

Not far down the road is the Southern entrance to the Petrified Forest. You would be remiss if you didn’t check it out.

It’s important to protect yourself from the sun here in Arizona, even in February.

We got in on my husband’s National Parks pass, definitely worth the money spent when you’re out here, we have used it several times already.

One of the first logs I fell in love with.

The road goes north and south, connecting two large highways, over twenty miles of interesting countryside, unbelievable vistas, and of course trees turned to stone.

Trees have fallen everywhere. They cracked when they petrified, no one chopped them up.

Right now, the middle section of the road is under construction so we could only go about 16 miles up the road. But it was fun anyway. If you only have a little time, I advise going on a short loop right behind the visitor center – you’ll see a lot of petrified trees in a small space.

This is “Old Faithful” a huge petrified tree located right behind the South Visitor Center on a short loop.

But really, try to go to Crystal Forest, a one mile paved walking loop with incredible petrified trees, and wonderful views. It’s paved and pretty level, and of course, if you get over petrified, you can always do only part of the loop.

The colors in the petrified wood are amazing, especially in late afternoon sun.

But likely that will be impossible because you’re going to want to know what’s around the next curve or over that rise in the path.

Take a walk in Crystal Forest. You won’t forget it.

If you were to go into the Petrified National Park from the north entrance you’d find an entirely different landscape. You’d soon realize you’re in the Painted Desert.

The north entrance has a building that used to be a restaurant and hotel, and now it’s a museum.

The colors, especially in early morning when we were lucky enough to be there, are almost indescribable. So I’ll let you just look and judge for yourself.

Stunning, right?

The red and green and rust and tan hills go on for miles and miles. At each overlook we had to stop and…well…look.

Amazing.

But we kept driving, and the landscape changed.

Well…this looks different.

We found ourselves surrounded by white mountains…

Interesting….very interesting.

…and following a paved trail we descended into a magical land of white and purple and blue and pink and grey piles of rock.

Isn’t this just the prettiest thing?

We gasped in surprise and delight around every curve. The morning light was making the colors glow. It almost looked fake.

To show you scale, the mountains were actually pretty big.

I’m telling you, don’t skip the north part of this park! Just because you’ve seen a bunch of petrified wood on the south side already, and you’re tired and thinking maybe you don’t need to go explore the north side, well, you’d be making a big mistake to skip this!

Loved those stripes!

After we walked back up the steep incline and out of the canyon we drove to an overlook. It was fun to trace where we’d walked. It looked sort of like a giant game board, with people moving along the path.

I don’t think we realized this was a purple mountain when we walked around it ourselves.

And, once we caught our breath…we headed back down the road.

On to the next adventure!

Next we’re stopping at Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. I haven’t even downloaded those pictures yet…but I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff in there.

On the way to our next location, this was a hint of what was to come.

And if you’ve followed this post all the way down here, thanks for your patience!

Yep, things are getting mighty interesting.


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We’re in the West!

Sometimes when you’re off exploring you get so overwhelmed with new sights that you just don’t know where to start. And that’s where I am right now.

On a drive up toward Roosevelt Lake north of Phoenix.

We’re in Arizona. Well, technically right this minute we’re in Colorado, but I have to get you caught up, and that means starting in Arizona. The images here are from the end of last week, starting in the Phoenix area where we visited friends.

Roosevelt Lake, on a beautiful sunny day.

We took a drive north of Phoenix, up toward Roosevelt Lake, driving through all sorts of terrain. The lake was beautiful, but the most beautiful that trip was this bridge.

Such a perfect reflection!

I liked that the ducks were swimming and messing up the glassy surface of the lake too.

A duck swims through the reflection.

After we visited for a couple days, we headed north for some exploring. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle, in Camp Verde, Arizona, where down a short walkway you could see the cliff dwelling sitting high up in the white stone. This dwelling was built and lived in by people from about 1100 to 1425.

Montezuma’s Castle, a cliff dwelling set along a beautiful river.

Then we traveled a few miles to Tuzigoot National Monument, another Indian ruin, this one sitting high on a hill.

Way up on that hill is the ruin of another Indian community.

We had perfect weather to explore the stone structure…

Lots of rooms in this multi-layered structure.

…and enjoy the views.

Long vistas, and no snow!

And finally, that day, we visited Montezuma’s well, a small lake that is fed fresh water from deep in the earth beneath the pond. Centuries ago it was a special place for gathering of the Indians from all over the region.

Fresh water coming up from the bottom, leaches out through the rock into a river below.

We were lucky enough to talk with a young man there whose people used to come there to pray and dance. He says they still do during certain times of the year.

There were cliff dwellings at the well too.

Since then we’ve seen a sunset in the desert, visited the Petrified Forest over the span of two days, wandered in the painted desert and crossed into Colorado.

Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Oh and we spent one night in Winslow Arizona….had to get the iconic picture of that!

“Standin on a corner in Winslow Arizona…”

I haven’t even looked at the past two days worth of pictures, much less picked out some for you…but I will. We’ve seen some spectacular scenery and you’re not going to want to miss it!

Stay tuned.

Iconic Arizona