Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Reading obituaries

Who else does this? I’ve always read obituaries, especially back in the days of paper newspapers. I remember the Sunday editions had pages of them and I read them all. I particularly focused on those people close to my age, tried to figure out what killed them, so as to reassure myself that something like that couldn’t happen to me.

A little over a year ago I looked up someone’s obit, I can’t remember who, but it was someone from my hometown. I ended up at the website of the local funeral home, a funeral home that’s been in town forever, whose family owners went to the church I attended as a kid.

A flock of wood ducks.

I signed up for an email notification whenever they have another person’s obituary. I’ve found that a lot of people that went to my church as a kid have now passed through this particular funeral home.

It’s an odd feeling when I see the notification in my emails. I always take a deep breath before I click on the link to see who it was. Lots of times it’s not someone I know, not a name from my childood, not a friend of my parents, or worse, a friend of mine. But sometimes it is someone I know’s parent or sister or brother, or child.

Beaver damage.

Sometimes it’s not anyone I know, but after reading the obituary I sort of wish I had known them. Today there were three, and a couple of them struck me. The best obit opening line I’ve ever read showed up today:

“Michael XXXX, age 73 of Howell Michigan, passed away on the golf course after a frustrating double-bogey on March …” Even though I’m not a golfer I smiled as I read that first sentence. And if you can make people smile while reading your obituary, well, you’re a pretty special person in a pretty special family.

Talkative robin.

And this man was someone five years younger than me that I would have enjoyed talking to:

“Mxxx strongly believed in education. He earned Masters Degrees in Economics from Indiana State University, Business Administration from Lewis University, and Information and Library Science from Wayne State University. He was a volunteer at the Salvation Army and the Livingston County Democratic Party. He was passionate about politics, the Chicago White Sox, and the music of Bruce Springsteen.”

I wish everyone’s obituary shared such interesting and fun bits of information. I’ve often thought I’d like to write obituaries. During such a stressful time I would want families not to have to come up with it on their own. And the help from funeral homes isn’t always much more than a fill in the blank option.

I would want families to look back at that obituary and know it summed up their loved one just exactly right. A last gift to the family I guess.

Anyway…how many of you read stranger’s obituaries and consider whether they were lucky to live a full life, how many of you feel grateful for your own life when you read an obituary for someone your age, or someone who seemed to have so few loved ones left.

Or am I just odd? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that.

Reflections.

Pictures today are from my walk last week at the Shiawasee Wildlife Preserve. I still don’t have editing capabilities, so I looked for images that you could enjoy straight out of the camera. They don’t have anything to do with obituaries, but that’s OK. I know you can deal with it.

And somewhere along the line I started getting my captions in the picture, which is sort of OK, except it darkens the picture. And I haven’t figured out how to get the captions out of there. Or even to delete the whole image. So you’ll have to image that these are decent pictures with interesting colors and stuff.

Seriously WordPress, don’t you realize we already have a lot on our plates?


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When all you can do is take a walk

I was lucky enough to get my first covid vaccine yesterday. Health workers at the clinic were congratulating people as they were being injected. The air crackled with optimisim. I felt optimistic too.

Hey everybody, what’s that up there?

But this morning, with a very sore arm and unable to sleep I began to scroll through Facebook. I got tangled up in reading about Georgia’s new voting rules, put into effect by it’s governor yesterday. Feelings of optimisim began to fade.

I know I’m beautiful.

This isn’t going to be a political post, suffice it to say I don’t see how these new rules can be viewed as anything but voter supression. But I know there are others out there with different opinions.

Anyway. I got so depressed scrolling that I finally just up and left the house. I wasn’t sure where I’d go, but I ended up where I usually go when I’m needing some alone outside time.

I really want to come get a treat, but I’m too cool to sit on your hand.

We had torrential rains this morning, but the rain was letting up as I got to Kensington. Because the weather had been so bad there were very few other people there. The wind was brisk, the air heavy with the last of the rain.

It was cold.

I kind of felt like I shouldn’t head out on a hike around the lake. After all, what would I see? But I dug out my hat and gloves and, putting my head down, headed out anyway. Going home didn’t seem a good option.

The titmouse grabs a treat while Mr. ‘too cool to sit on your hand’ watches.

And I’m glad I went for that walk. Pictures here are straight from the camera today, none are edited. They aren’t anything you haven’t seen from me before, but they are a few of my favorites, and the reason I began to smile even in the rain, even with my sore arm.

Well hi there!

Even if the country still seems terribly divided, even if covid is spiking in my state again.

And by the time I left the park four hours later the sun was breaking through the clouds and the sky was blue. I even put my gloves back in my pocket.

Cutest little titmouse ever!

Kensington succeeded at raising my spirits, as it always does. I hope each of you has a place like this to go when you have a bad day. And if you don’t, I hope these images help just a little.

I’m happy to share them with you.

Turns out it was a beautiful day!


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Smiling in between

In between the Atlanta mass shooting and the Boulder mass shooting I spent a wonderful day wandering in the woods at the Shiawasee Nature Preserve. I was one of only 3 people out there enjoying the acres and acres of wetlands, old dykes, ponds, trees, and birds.

Lots and lots and lots of birds.

I don’t have editing capabilities right now, so no cropping, no lightening of shadows. No enhancements of any kind. I have so many pretty things to show you from this walk.

Later, I promise.

For now, here’s one image straight from the camera, of a tree and it’s eight eagles of assorted ages.

This is as close as I could get to them. I need a longer lens. Still, when is the last time you saw eight eagles enjoying a morning sunbath?

Me either.

So that walk was my smile of the week. Thank you, Trent, for keeping us grounded in smiles while we navigate these times.


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The internal debate

The debate churned within me as I watched the news last night and again today.  Another mass shooting, the second in the last seven days.  I watch the talking heads and the famlies from previous shootings arguing their positions on gun control.  I note, again, how similar their fight is to ours trying to get safety regulations in the trucking industry.

Let me say right up front that I’m supportive of at least discussing some gun control legislation. And that I don’t understand the entire complicated issue. But I do know the pain that family and friends carry with them as they walk the halls of Congress trying to get something, anything done.

Sandhill cranes in early morning light.

And who better to talk about possible soultions than the people that have born the brunt of the issue.

I don’t understand why any civilian needs guns designed for warefare. But mostly I don’t understand when purchasing a gun why a background check is a problem. So I’d like to close that loophole, even for private sales. Yes I get that a background check might not have changed anything in many of the mass shootings over the years. But there’s nothing to prove background checks haven’t averted mass shootings either.

It’s like truck safety. It’s hard to prove that we’ve saved lives. But I have to believe that the successes we’ve had at holding back bigger, longer trucks have saved lives, that getting onboard recorders to manage hours of service has saved lives. That just talking about safety around trucking issues with our friends and families has saved lives.

And geese too.

Just like background checks, we’ll never know whose life has been saved because a truck crash didn’t happen. We’ll never know how many live are saved because a background check kept a gun from someone ‘having a bad day.’

I know that someone intent on doing harm will get a gun regardless of regulations. Just like a driver, intent on making a profit can drive longer hours on less sleep and at greater speeds. But regulations keep the majority following safety protocols. And that saves lives.

Remnant

Think back, those of you my age or older, to when there were no seatbelt requirements. When they started being required we protested. They infringed our freedom to drive with wild abandonment. (It was the 60s after all.) But seatbelts saved lives and eventually we adjusted.

Background checks on all gun purchases can save lives, and those of us that want to own guns can adjust.

I know, I know, change is hard.

So what was the internal debate I’ve been struggling with? It was whether to bring this topic up at all. But two mass killings in a week are hard to ignore. One mass killing should be hard to ignore. Our government needs to stop sticking to party lines and have an honest debate.

Reflections

I think we are more than ready to talk about this. And we deserve that discussion.

Pictures today are from a several mile walk I took yesterday at the Shiawasee Nature Preserve. They are straight from the camera, without any editing, because my Lightroom library is still full and useless. I chose these to share with you now, because I don’t know when I’ll be able to edit again. And I didn’t want you to miss a bit of beauty during all the horrific news these days.

Sunrise

Let’s hope it’s a new day in Congress.

PS: I think you’ll have to click on these images to really see them, they seem pretty small in the finished product! Darn WordPress anyway. 🙂


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Change is hard

So WordPress decided it knows better than me how I should write a post. They’ve been pushing their “BLOCK” mode on us for a long time, but there’s always been the option of continuing with “Classic.”

Until today. Apparently.

So I’m trying to figure it out. Let’s see if I can post a picture here.

So here’s a picture, but how do you make it NOT SO BIG? I’m already in trouble with storage space. What if I don’t want it this big???

Of course it’s a picture of you know who. She wouldn’t stand for anything else to be included in this experiment. I wonder if I can put a link in somehow. We’ll see how that looks….one moment please…well, that works…so I’m making progress.

Maybe I’m irritated because I’ve never liked being told what to do. Part of retirement is mostly freedom from being told how to spend my days. Mostly. There’s still Katie giving orders, but she’s cute so she gets away with it.

Anyway….I’ll post this rambling thing, I wonder if I can schedule it to post tomorrow.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Change is hard.


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Truck rant

(This was written in January 2012. It was sitting in my draft folder, never posted, probably because I was afraid of offending someone. Now, nine years later, the same issues are still being studied by the DOT. Other than mandating unboard recorders nothing has been accomplished there.)

Warning – this is probably not going to be politically correct.  And I remind myself that what’s put out on the internet stays on the internet.  Good or bad.  But I’m working on truck safety stuff again, which makes me relive some of the initial moments and days after Dad’s crash.  And some things just need to be said.  Out loud.  Emphatically.

I’m heading to Washington again, for more meetings with the DOT; Secretary LaHood, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro and then members of Congress, to talk about things that can be done to improve safety.  Sometimes it all feels pointlessly repetitive, like we’re just wasting time, ours and theirs.

But then I remember.

I remember getting the call at work.  I remember signing papers to have Dad cremated and faxing them to the funeral home from a retail UPS store the night before Christmas Eve. I remember suffering through the holiday cheer of the employees as I waited for my confirmation while trying not to cry.  I remember sitting in my brother’s Alabama living room the night of Christmas Eve listening to the county coroner explain what happened.  I remember not understanding.

And this is what I can tell you now that I know more, understand more.

I know that though Dad was the kind of guy that would fix things and make them better, dead is forever and dead can’t be fixed.  And as much as I want to I can never make my family whole.  I told my sister, a couple of years into this journey, that if we could save one life through our efforts with the Truck Safety Coalition we’d be even.  She said “No we won’t.”  And she’s right.  We will never be even, not ever again.

So we can’t fix the fact that Dad is dead.  But we can fix fatigued driving.  And though common sense says that the easiest way to fix fatigued driving is to lower the number of hours a person can consecutively drive, well, maybe I’m just a naive civilian.

I received an emailed response from Administrator Ferro to my own emotional email expressing my displeasure with the new Hours of Service rule.  She says, and rightly so, that reducing truck crashes will take a complicated combination of rules, a push toward safety from many fronts –  and that reducing the number of allowed hours would continue to be studied.  She assures me a reduction in consecutive hours of driving could still be on the table.  OK.  So let’s study this for another year or more.  Apparently the people that will be killed by fatigued drivers during this period of study are expendable…collateral damage if you will.

Or maybe they’re just the cost of doing business.  After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, don’t you know.  So what’s good for the ATA (American Trucking Association) is good for all of us.   Right?  Well maybe good for everyone except those of us who get calls in the middle of the day, those of us signing our family member away to a funeral home, those of us left with a hole that can never be filled.  Those of us angry in our grief.

I’m not apologizing for this rant.  It’s your choice to read or not read.  Comment or not.  It wasn’t written for you.  It was written for me.  Because I have to go back to Washington and talk to these people again about common sense safety issues.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t have to explain simple concepts to people that are in power and are supposed to be experts in their fields.  I shouldn’t have to exploit Dad’s death to get something done.  I shouldn’t have to relive the whole thing over and over and over so that they can justify ‘studying’ things some more.

Give it up people.  The time for studying and discussion is over.  We need some action.  People are dying.

I don’t know what more I can say.


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Mama thinks she’s in charge

Katie here, of course. It’s Saturday, March 13 and tonight mama and daddy do something called ‘spring forward.’ Huh. I don’t believe I’ve seen either one of them spring before. I’m pretty sure they’re way too old to be springing at all.

Anyway, I heard them talking about how they figured this was a great way to feed me later in the day. I start begging for my dinner about 2:30 in the afternoon and I usually wear them down between 3:30 and 4. Used to be, when mama worked a real job that I didn’t get supper till she got home, maybe 7 at night, and apparently they thought I was fine with that.

I was not fine, and since mama’s home all the time now I figure I should get my supper when I want my supper. Them thinking that they can fool me by an hour tomorrow is a hoot. Obviously they have forgotten my intelligence.

That would be a mistake.

So today mama took me to two parks! It was a beautiful day, 49 degrees (9.44C) with blue skies and no wind! We had so much fun! You aren’t seeing pictures cause mama is frustrated with her LightRoom processing stuff.

She’s filled up her alloted memory, so her cloud is full. She says she doesn’t even need to store stuff in a cloud, she stores it all on her laptop. So she has to figure out how to empty her cloud library without deleting all her stuff on her laptop before she can work on any more pictures.

Mama hates technical stuff like this.

I think this is obvious proof that mama takes too many pictures. She should learn from this and back off, especially pictures of me. Of course i like the treats involved in a photo shoot…so maybe I should reconsider that.

And mama is filling up her WordPress alloted space too. Proof, obviously, that she talks too much. Maybe she should just take a break. I’d vote for that as long as she uses all the extra time she’d have taking me to parks and on adventures.

What do you think, should she focus entirely on me and let the rest of the stuff go? Inquiring doggies want to know…and while you’re at it, who thinks they’ll be able to feed me an hour later than normal tomorrow?

Yea. I don’t think so either.

A picture from last week. I pretty much look the same today.


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This week’s noisy smile

It’s been a crazy winter, right? Some parts of our country have seen snow where no snow is expected. Other parts are flooding, or fighting wildfires. I think we’ll all be glad to say goodbye to this winter, and for me, the first true sign that spring is right around the corner is the sound of the red-winged blackbird.

Hmmmmm…this peanut looks good.

It’s a distinctive cry that I haven’t heard around my house yet this year. Other people, not so far away from me, are hearing them already and have for awhile. My Facebook memories say that it was on this date when I heard them first last year.

I’ll just fluff myself up and let out my best territory protection scream. I’m sure the girls will be flocking to me in no time.

Today it’s too windy to hear much of anything here, but yesterday was a beautiful morning and I headed out to Kensington where I almost always find something beautiful or exciting or just fun.

I’ve picked out the perfect patch of cattails to build our home. Now I just need to find the perfect sweetie.

I found all of that in the massive flocks of red-winged blackbirds all screeching for a mate, while flocking to food, hanging on to swaying cattails, or flying up into trees to sing even louder. Their combined sound was almost overwhelming.

I can’t find the ladies anywhere! And trust me, I’ve looked!

But it sure made me smile!

I guess I’ll just keep singing.


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Don’t miss this waterfall!

On my drive north from Alabama last week I took a quick (or not so quick) detour 50 miles east of my route home to see Burgess Falls. Husband and I had been to see it several years ago in the middle of a summer when there was significantly less water flowing than this time of year.

A little waterfall on the hike back to the big one.

It rained hard the evening and night before I drove over to the falls, and it has been raining for months in the Southeast. There was a squishy walk of about a mile back to the falls. I didn’t mind, there were plenty of pretty things to see along the way. Plus I knew I had hours of driving ahead of me. A little walk would be just the thing.

Everything was damp and green and muddy.

The river was roaring, over it’s banks and moving fast. Just like all the other rivers I’d crossed the day before and would cross on my trek north.

My first clue that the waterfall would be ferocious.

I remembered, as I walked, our last visit to this park where we had trekked down a steep metal staircase, and then climbed over boulders to sit at the base of the falls. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be possible, judging from the volume of water rushing down the river.

And I was right. See those boulders and trees down there in the river? That’s an island and we sat on those rocks and watched people swimming in the pool below the waterfall.

So much water. And the noise!

You wouldn’t want to be out there now. Still, some steps led down ‘to the falls’ so I went down to see what was what.

Wonder what’s down there?

Personally I think those stairs should be closed. It leads you right to the top of the falls where it would be so easy to slip and fall into the raging river.

Teenagers throwing sticks into the water. I couldn’t watch.

I scurried right back up, and told the family at the top who were contemplating the trip down not to do it, it wasn’t worth the climb, and it was too dangerous for their kids.

Other than that I enjoyed my brief time at the falls, and I’d go back again when some of the water dries up. I’m sure there will be plenty of repair work to do before it’s safe to go down to the bottom again.

It was worth getting a little muddy.

Regardless of the water flow this is one stunning waterfall and worth a detour to see it! And I got to see a few barns on the way over there.

Couldn’t resist stopping for this one.

And some more cows.

Cows and their barn.

So even though it added a few hours to my trip home I think it was all worth it. That’s the best part about a road trip –turning left instead of right once in awhile.

Such a pretty place, Tennessee.