Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Birthday girl is all smiles

Katie here,

Guess what, guess what, GUESS WHAT?!

Today is my birthday! My very own special day when my folks have to pay attention to me! When I get whatever I want. Like to go to the park, and then take a nap and then have cake and ice cream. With presents!

We went for a walk earlier this week. But this wasn’t my birthday walk.

Well, maybe not the cake and ice cream, and maybe not presents either, but definitely the park and the nap! And because it’s my birthday mama says I can use her “Weekly smile” post too. Cause there’s nothing so easy to smile at as a happy sheltie-girl.

Mama, you’re being silly now.

And let me tell you, this birthday girl is happy!

Cause you know what mama got me for my birthday? She got me SNOW!

My birthday walk today was special cause it was snowing!

I just love snow. It’s so cool on my face, and enhances my natural beauty. Mama said she didn’t know what to get me, I’m now a teenager in addition to being a princess, so she ordered up my favorite thing next to supper. Snow.

We had this part of the park all to ourselves.

We went out to one of my parks and walked a long way through the woods. Mama was very busy taking pictures of me in my snow.

This is my supermodel pose.

I didn’t mind because she brought treats. In fact I started looking for good spots for pictures too. I figured the more pictures she took the more treats I got!

This tree trunk is pretty cool, mama, and I look good next to it.

But then mama said since it was my birthday she’d put the camera away and we’d just enjoy the walk. I was OK with that too, there was lots to sniff and I pulled her around to a bunch of places.

I’d look over in one direction and she’d say “Do you want to go check that out sweetie?” and then we would! It was a great morning! We just kept exploring.

We were near some picnic tables when mama asked me if I wanted to be a special birthday girl and leave something for someone else more needy than me. I said sure, so she left some birdseed for the squirrels who were running around the park.

I hope you enjoy this squirrels! Happy birthday to me!

I figured it was the least I could do, cause I know I’m pretty privileged.

We walked for a long time. And then something amazing happened. The sun came out!

The sun smiled down on me, perfect for my birthday walk.

Well! The camera came back out, right away. Mama said I glowed like a true princess! But the sun only stayed out for a moment or two and then we were back to a typical cloudy December day.

It was a perfect walk on a perfect sheltie-girl birthday!

I didn’t mind at all.

Mama said it was pretty perfect for her too, she watched me sniff and explore and enjoy the snow and she forgot her own wet feet and cold fingers. She couldn’t stop smiling herself.

Isn’t the snow beautiful on my fur?

So that was our smile for the week – my snowy birthday walk.

We hope you all had a wonderful week too. As we head into the busy holiday season we remind you all to slow down and enjoy the time you have with family and friends.

The woods are so beautiful in winter.

And if you can, take a walk in the woods, especially if it’s snowing. You’ll smile too.

Happy Holidays!


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Owl prowl

Have you ever been on an owl prowl?

I went Saturday, out into the woods in the dark of night, where I met with a park ranger, an owl expert and about 80 other crazy people.

We met at a pavilion with a warm fire roaring in the big stone fireplace. The experts told us about the owls we might hear in our area, how their eyes worked, their ears, why some feathers are different than others. We learned that they fly silently and that they can hear a mouse rustling a leaf on the forest floor.

I imagined owls sitting silently way up in tall trees secretly smirking as 80 humans moved as quietly as 80 humans can move below them. I didn’t imagine we’d hear or see anything.

We broke into two groups, about 40 each and went in different directions. We tried to walk quietly, but seriously, some people were wearing snow suit pants that made that irritating noise when they walked. Yes, it was cold, and I’m sure they were all comfy warm, but still. Plus we were walking on fallen oak leaves — oak leaves that crunched with each step.

It was a dark and cloudy night.

Still I love being out in the woods at night, even with so many people around me. I didn’t even care that we never heard or saw an owl, I was enthralled with the black branches silhouetted against the sky filled with puffy clouds, a half moon and a few stars.

I wished I had my camera and tripod.

I didn’t and the images here were blindly shot with my phone, then lightened up a bit. Sort of artsy fartsy, in an attempt to get you to imagine what it’s like to stand under bare trees on a moonlit night staring up at the sky.

It’s pretty magical, I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t hear an owl.

Moonlight magic on bare limbs of winter.


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Holiday smiles

Trent is still hosting the Weekly Smile, and though sometimes I don’t get moving fast enough to include my smiles in his recap, this week I wanted to make sure I shared. This week’s smile is all about music, specifically the Christmas music our community band played last night at our annual holiday concert.

Getting ready for the concert.

I love it when our concert is early enough in December to feel like it kicks off the holiday. This year it seemed perfect, just after Thanksgiving and with a few weeks until the big day.

We shared the stage again this year with a high school choir group. They add just the right touch of elegance to the music, with their formal attire and lovely soaring voices.

Look who arrived!

And of course we had a visit from Santa, who showed up right after the children in the audience came up on the stage and rang their jingle bells as we played Here Comes Santa Clause.

The little ones were in awe of the big guy in red. We kind of like him too.

Children ready to shake those bells? OK, let’s go!

And he stuck around to conduct our last piece, Sleighride, the perfect way to end a fun evening.

A perfect way to end a lovely evening.

You couldn’t count all the smiles that were in that auditorium last night. And that makes it my smile of the week.


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The hard ask

It’s that time of year again, when nonprofits tally up what they’ve accomplished and work out the details for the year ahead.

And when they ramp up their fundraising efforts.

There are so many good causes, all of them vying for our attention — and that’s not even including the political candidates who are daily asking for donations. It all makes me want to crawl back into bed, pull the sheet up to my chin, and watch mindless television until this winter is over.

But that won’t solve the world’s problems, and for almost every problem there is a deserving group of people trying to make things better.

Many of you know what problem I’ve been trying to make better, the issues I’ve been working on for the past fifteen years. But in case you don’t, let me tell you the story.

And then I’ll make the hard ask.

Very early on the morning of December 23rd, 2004 my dad was driving from his Alabama home to the Atlanta airport with the intent of catching a flight north to spend Christmas with my sister. It’s a two hour drive, and his flight was at 10 a.m. so he left long before daylight.

About an hour into his trip, just after he passed the Alabama/Georgia line and right in front of a truck weigh station traffic slowed and then stopped. Up ahead not too far away was a small fender bender crash; there were already police and fire trucks attending to the scene. A trooper was waving traffic into the left lane.

Multiple sets of emergency vehicle lights were flashing in the dark morning along that straight stretch of freeway.

Dad pulled over behind a semi truck. Another car pulled over behind dad. The semi behind that car, driven by a young man who was exhausted, did not stop. The car behind dad noticed the semi coming and pulled over into the median.

My dad didn’t stand a chance as the semi barreled into him at 65 miles per hour.

And so the story of our family changed in that instant. My mother had died suddenly with no warning in July. Dad was killed in December. Their four adult children were left stunned.

But we wanted answers. How could the truck driver not see all those emergency vehicles ahead of him? Everyone else was able to slow and move over. Why not that semi?

Turns out the driver fell asleep. He fell asleep while driving a vehicle because he had driven all night in order to get a load of electronics to Atlanta to be sold for Christmas. He was enticed by his dispatcher to push to Atlanta even though he was tired, enticed by the offer of another load heading to Florida where he lived. If he made it to Atlanta that morning he could take the load to Florida. He could be home for Christmas.

Instead he spent the day in jail and my dad spent the day in the morgue.

As we learned more we found out that this is not an isolated thing, semi trucks are plowing into the back of stopped traffic almost daily. There are a lot of reasons why, and there are a lot of other safety issues in the trucking industry too. Most of the problems are not the drivers, but the way the industry operates and has historically treated drivers.

It’s complicated.

But what is not complicated is that almost 5,000 people die in crashes with big commercial trucks every year, and over 100,000 are injured. Since my dad was killed almost 75,000 people have been killed in truck crashes. A million and a half people have been injured.

And everywhere any push for change is met with resistance. From the ATA (American Trucking Association) and the Independent Operators. Because changes for safety are perceived as challenges to profit.

And that’s where the Truck Safety Coalition comes in. It’s a nonprofit, combining CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) and PATT (Parents Against Tired Truckers). Both groups are made up of volunteers who are family members of those killed or injured. The coalition provides a combined management of staff and resources for the two groups as they fight to educate the public and the industry about issues that make our roads unsafe for everyone.

This past year we focused on four bills that we have in the House and Senate, each one addressing a different issue. We support speed limiters for truks, underride guards on trucks to prevent cars from sliding under the semi in a crash, increased liability insurance, from the $750,000 required since 1980 to something indexed to inflation, and especially requiring automatic emergency braking for large commercial trucks.

Automatic emergency braking might have saved my dad.

In 2019 we also held a four day conference so that families of victims and those injured can gather together, gain strength from each other, and learn about the issues and how to talk about them. Then the volunteers go out and meet with their Representatives and Senators, pushing for support on the legislation we have pending.

All of this work costs money. Some of the volunteers are able to donate, but many didn’t receive a settlement, are regular working people trying to support their families and don’t have much to spare.

And that’s where the hard ask comes in.

There are two ways you can help us. Because Tuesday is “Giving Tuesday” on Facebook, I started a donation post there in the hopes that we’ll get matched, though to be honest I doubt it, there are so many others out there that we have never had a match from Facebook.

The second way, and perhaps the more efficient way, is if you would consider donating directly at our website. This link will put you directly on the donation page. But if you would like to know more about the organization, I’ll put the home URL here.

It’s hard for me to ask you, my readers, my supporters, Katie fans, music lovers, photography nerds, to donate to my cause. I’ve never been a great salesperson. And most people don’t think this is an issue that relates to them.

Until it does.

Because truck crashes aren’t political, they aren’t blue or red, they focus on no specific religion, no social class, crashes don’t care if you’re straight or gay, male or female. Mothers and fathers, and sister and brothers and uncles and aunts and best friends and lovers and babies die in crashes caused by unsafe practices.

And truck drivers die.

Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in this country. In 2017 about 800 truck drivers died just doing their jobs. The work we do will save drivers’ lives too.

So. During this hectic holiday season when all you want to do is focus on family and friends, good food, days off work, colored lights and beautiful music, I’m asking you to think, for a moment, about trucks and death.

I know it isn’t easy.

Just know there are thousands of families out there this holiday season who are missing someone lost to an avoidable crash. There are families out there struggling with huge medical bills for the care of their injured loved ones. There are families out there that are turning their grief into energy for change, to honor their family or friend. To do something with the pain.

Help us continue that work. Please give what you can.

I will be forever grateful.

Thank you.

At my wedding in 1990


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Reilly, my love

Katie here.

When mama said she was going to write a tribute to Reilly Cowspot Dog, my fiance, I asked if I could please do it. Because Reilly was, and always will be, my boyfriend, my soulmate.

My guy.

Mama wasn’t sure it was a good idea to let me write it. She said maybe it would be too hard for me, that I’d get all sad and stuff, and of course she’s right. I am truly heartbroken that I won’t see Mr. Reilly on this earth again.

I love him so.

My guy, Mr. Reilly.

But it is precisely because I love him that I want to tell you about him. And even though it makes me sad, it also helps me to remember him and all the good times he had when he was here.

Mama is right when she says you can smile and cry at the same time.

Reilly and me at one of his amazing parks.

Reilly was born an old soul with the deepest, darkest, most beautiful eyes. I’m told he was a good boy right from the start. He never got in trouble even when he was a puppy.

He was a color-headed white sheltie, which means most of him was white, but he had this marking on one side that mama thought looked just like a Micky Mouse head, especially noticeable when he was a little guy.

Mama ‘borrowed’ this picture from Reilly’s blog. Can you see the marking on his side?

Mama says one of the first things she remembers about him was a video where he was walking on a treadmill, getting his walk in when the weather was bad outside. He was so adorable.

When he was in one of his contemplative moods.

He grew into a tall guy, so dark and handsome, with a big, booming voice. Sometimes people were startled when he barked, but they shouldn’t have worried because Reilly loved everyone. His mom said he even liked to go to the vet, and would bark upon arrival to let them all know he was there. Can you imagine being happy to visit the vet?

Lounging on his sofa. (picture taken by his mom.)

And what an adventurer he was! He loved to explore parks, proclaiming each of them ‘his’ once he had visited. Why he and his brother Denny even earned honorary Park Ranger status! Reilly felt it was very important to visit as many of his parks as frequently as possible just to make sure everything was up to his very high standards.

A couple years ago, when a hurricane was threatening his home, he and his family got to go all the way to Alabama to stay at my lake house! I wasn’t there, which makes me sad now, but I was sure happy to see the pictures of Reilly enjoying the cooler Alabama weather out on my deck.

Reilly, happy on my deck in Alabama. (picture by his mom.)

I hear he especially loved the air conditioning vents that I had put in the floors there. They are perfect to cool off warm sheltie tummies and I’m so glad he got to enjoy them.

He climbed my mountain there in Alabama too! Just one more adventure in a life full of adventures for my Reilly.

Reilly on my mountain.  (picture by his mom)

For the last few years Reilly was lucky to live near the ocean, and oh my goodness, how my Reilly loved walking on the beach in the early mornings or late evenings. So many lovely smells. So many birds to chase!

Reilly and his birds.

He loved the salt air blowing in his fur, and the sand between his toes, even the toes of his bad foot. He had the most adorable little boots that he wore to help him walk easier. I thought he looked so sophisticated in them.

Reilly and his little brother Denny on their beach. (picture by their mom.)

And guess what? A couple years ago I got to actually meet the love of my life! I’m sure you all remember that. He was so welcoming, letting me spend time in his home. He shared his beaches and parks and family with me, and even let me eat out of his bowl without arguing!

My first time on a beach, Reilly made me feel a lot safer just because he was there.

My Reilly, he was such a gentleman.

When he wasn’t adventuring or exploring he loved to spend time at home with his folks, lounging on the deck in the winter sunlight, or hanging out in the air conditioned sun-porch during the warmer months. He did that more and more these last few weeks as he became weaker in his illness.

Reilly and his little brother Denny, best friends forever. (Picture by his mom.)

This past Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, his poor body just gave out and he crossed the rainbow bridge, only two weeks after his little brother Denny. Mama took me on a walk the next day and told me the sad news. Of course I wasn’t surprised, as she had warned me that he was very ill. But still.

During my last visit with Reilly and his brother. Isn’t he handsome?

Mama’s eyes are leaking at random times now, and this morning I crawled into bed to wake her up with kisses which I haven’t done in many years. She hugged me tight. She says she is so heartbroken for Reilly’s folks who have lost both their boys this month.

She says there are no words to make this better.

And she says she knows lots of people all over the world were sad to hear the news. Did I tell you my Reilly was famous and had his own blog? He had friends everywhere.

Reilly’s last visit to his beach.(Picture by his mom.)

I feel very honored to be his girl and I know when I go across that bridge he’ll be waiting for me. Cause that’s the kind of gentle boy he is and always will be.

So Mr. Reilly. My love. I will miss you forever and ever. Thank you for being my guy and sharing your space with me and putting up with my princess-ness. Thank you for all the gifts you’ve sent me over the years. Thanks for sleeping next to me when I visited, and taking me to your special places. I loved all of it. And I loved you.

No, that last bit shouldn’t be in past tense. I love you Reilly, and always will. Till we meet again sweetie, run on those beaches up there, and sniff through the woods. Chase a bird and a squirrel for me while you’re waiting. And eat the good treats, just save a few for me.

Your feet, all four of them, are good now, and your legs are strong. Your bark is as loud and as deep as ever; I’m sure you announced yourself when you got over the bridge. Run and bark and keep a watch over Denny and I’ll see you again. One way or another.

Run pain free, my love!

Love forever,

Your girl Katie.

Reilly and Denny, together forever. (picture by their mom.)


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Sharing a smile – musically

You ever have one of those weeks that just flies by and you’re pretty sure you had plenty to smile about but you can’t really remember anything specific? Well, that’s been my week. So this week’s smile comes to you from this very afternoon, the last afternoon of the week.

Today I attended a band concert at our local high school. But this isn’t just any band – it’s made up of band directors, private music teachers and a few assorted graduate music students. Talk about talent filling a hall!

Though the house wasn’t full (and it should have been, all the students of all these teachers should have been there) those of us in the audience were serious appreciates of good music. During one piece I noticed a guy up one row and to my left conducting along with the music. And there was plenty of head bopping going on all around me. Yep, the place was filled with musicians and musician’s families.

And in the middle of their last piece, Danzon No. 2 by Marquez, where the piece gets extra wild and a bit raunchy, (about 7:38 into the piece, see link above.), I actually got goosebumps.

That was definitely cause for a smile.


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The weekly smile is buried in snow.

Trent hosts a collection of smiles each week. People post on their own blogs, describing things that made them smile that week, and link their posts to his. On Mondays, a day when we could all use a few smiles, Trent posts a recap so that we can all visit everybody else. It’s a nice way to start the week.

So this week, in Michigan, we got snow. Record breaking snow, more snow this early in the season than we’ve ever received in the history of our weather.

Sure it was pretty, but nothing to smile about.

Did we smile?

Well, not so much, not after the first “Oh it’s so pretty” wore off. My husband went out three times during the day to clear the driveway. And then he went and bought a bigger snowblower.

We all wanted to fly away.

To add more drama to our lives, this week we’re having drywall put up in the garage, so the car had to stay outside. In the accumulating snow.

Is this supposed to be fun mama?

I took his truck with four wheel drive to my morning physical therapy appointment. Driving in blowing snow, through snowdrifts, and finding out, after the appointment, that there was no snow scraper in the truck meant I was still not smiling.

My feet are cold. This is not fun.

And Thursday and Friday we had painters doing the inside of our house. Katie and I were relegated to one bedroom with the door closed so she didn’t end up a painted dog. She wasn’t smiling.

Camping makes me smile, but not in the snow!

And when Katie is unhappy everyone is unhappy. So most of Thursday and some of Friday she and I explored her parks.

About time you found me a park where they plowed the path!

And then the sun came out. Which made us all smile!

Now this is perfect weather mama!

After two long days of exploring cold, snow covered parks, we spent last night playing hide the sheltie-girl.

You can’t hide from me mama!

And the smiles continued.

What made you smile this week? Share it with us! Those of us up here in snow country could use more smiles.

Adventures always make me smile mama!