Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Truck rant

Several lives changed or ended abruptly in Colorado Thursday, April 25th.

Photo taken from the internet.

As many of you saw on national news a semi truck came barreling down a mountainside, out of control according to witnesses, stopping only when it struck rush hour traffic. Four people were killed. Ten people, including the semi driver, were treated for injuries.

This crash brought out strong emotions in me, the daughter of a man killed by a semi driven by a sleepy driver. I know first hand how difficult the road ahead will be for the families of those killed, and have friends who know all about the hurdles facing the surviving victims.

The driver’s life has changed forever too. He’s been charged with 40 charges, including four counts of vehicular homicide. His family, of course, supports him.

He was newly hired at the Texas company who owned the truck, a company who has had previous safety violations, including those involving brakes. He was only driving a truck temporarily to earn some money. He wasn’t planning on becoming a professional driver, though he was happy to get the job.

But the story gets even worse.

This crash was the perfect storm of all the things that can go wrong when an inexperienced driver gets into the seat of an 80,000 pound vehicle, working for a small, independent company. A company that obviously didn’t care about safety, as evidenced by their earlier safety violations and the lack of training. A small company, with only five trucks, a company that carries only the minimum liability insurance of $750,000.

That minimum insurance is required for a truck company to operate, the law requiring it was implemented in 1980 and has never been increased even though the cost of living, including medical costs, have skyrocketed since. Small companies often carry only that much, even though, as we can see, the death and destruction caused by a semi crash doesn’t correlate to the size or wealth of the company.

So those four families who’s loved ones died last week, and the families of all those injured, some still in the hospital, will have to split the available liability insurance of $750,000 between them, and share it with the state of Colorado too, if there are any needed road repairs as a result of this crash.

Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand doesn’t begin to cover the costs. It won’t begin to compensate families for their losses. It won’t cover lost wages, or pain meds, skin grafts or surgeries. And what about the company itself, the one who put that young driver in the driver’s seat and sent him off to the mountains of Colorado with faulty brakes?

They will likely file bankruptcy and start up again the next day under another name. And don’t think they’ll have learned anything from this – the likelihood of them becoming a safer truck company in their next incarnation is negligible.

Because for companies like this it’s not about safety. It’s all about the money.

And unless we raise the liability insurance minimum to something substanstial so that the insurance company will underwrite the truck company, including it’s safety record, until we require companies to cover a larger portion of any damage they cause, then there’s no incentive to put safety first.

The opposing argument is that increased insurance requirements would be too expensive, that it would put small truck companies out of business. Well. My opinion is if you can’t afford the actual cost of doing business you should find another business to be in. Don’t pass your costs on to innocents, who will then have to file bankruptcy themselves, buried under medical bills, and eventually get assistance from Medicaid, which is paid for by all taxpayers.

I don’t know about you, but to me it’s only common sense to tie the required level of liability insurance to the rise in medical expenses. But I know that’s not likely to happen all at once, if at all. I’d be happy to get it raised to $2 million, which also wouldn’t have been enough to handle all the loss and expenses from last week’s crash.

This week some of those families are likely finding out there’s little to nothing available to them to help them in their new normal. It’s going to feel like a slap in the face.

Image taken from the internet.

Those people were sitting in their cars in rush hour traffic. Doing nothing wrong. They got up to go to work or school or the grocery store and the world as they knew it imploded in a split second because of greed. Because profit trumps safety. Because people, with no thought of anyone else, made some very bad decisions.

For those involved in the April crash spring will never come again in quite the same way.

And this is why we go to Washington, over and over and over again. Because someday someone will hear, finally hear, how crazy this all is. This year it’s remotely possible that there will be another attempt to get the minimum required level raised. If that happens I’ll ask you all to call and text and email your Washington Representatives and Senators.

It takes a lot to get their attention, so we’ll need you all. Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for your support.

The regulrly scheduled blog will continue shortly. While you wait, if you’re the praying sort, send a little prayer up for the families involved in this crash, and for the victims of all the other crashes happening daily across our country.

Thank you.

Hey Dad. Hope you’re showing the new people around heaven.


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Smiling this week

The week is literally flying by as I smile while watching the spring arrivals at my bird feeders.

Male cardinal, female and male grosbeaks, shot through the living room window complete with reflections.

May 1st was a very very big day, as the first two male Baltimore orioles showed up, brilliant in their orange feathers.

Welcome back Mr. Oriole! We’ve missed you!

Their feeder had only been up one day when they arrived, so perhaps they’ve been around a few days. I hope they didn’t get too hungry waiting for me.

All day today, May 2nd, the oriole feeder has been active, with the beautiful orange birds, plus others who stopped by for a taste.

Energized for takeoff!

Today I saw my first Grosbeaks, two males at my seed feeder fighting each other for space at the table. One finally chased the other off, but then seemed kind of confused.

Waiting his turn at a feeder.

I had his favorite food on the feeder, but he seemed interested in all the activity right next door at the oriole feeder. So he gave that a try.

Hey everyone, there’s desert over here!

Turns out he liked it and sat there tasting for quite some time. And when he noticed me he flew up into the tree to watch…

It’s safe up here to sort out what kind of options I have.

…then sat at the finch feeder eating thistle seed for a long time. He thinks he’s arrived at a smorgasbord. I guess he has.

Hmmmm, this is pretty good too!

And when a bluejay showed up he retreated to another feeder pole to watch the action.

Just resting between courses.

Yesterday I saw the first hummingbird too, checking out the oriole feeder because I hadn’t put up his feeder. I hurried up and got that out and he’s been back today. In fact I just saw him a few minutes ago. No pictures yet, he’s pretty shy.

And of course between the orioles and grosbeaks (a female showed up today too!!) and hummingbirds…

Sharing is hard sometimes.

…I have the usual gold finches and titmice and chickadees and bluejays and blackbirds and cardinals.

And this guy, image caught through the window and a screen.

Good water lady!

What made you smile this week? Tell us your story and link to Trent’s blog so we can all smile with you!

I make everybody smile!


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A photo a week challenge: Rule of Thirds

Nancy Merrill is good enough to post a photo challenge each week. On Thursdays I read her post and file it away in the back of mind in case I run across the perfect fit. Sometimes I find something interesting, lots of times I don’t, but I’m always looking.

This week’s challenge is ‘rule of thirds,’ which means the main point of the image should be resting at the intersection of lines drawn a third of the way across and down the image space.

Tonight I’ve been watching my goldfinches arrive to eat their supper in the pouring rain. I set the camera on a tripod, focused it on the feeder, and then sat across the room with my remote shutter release.

It was a bit of a wait, but finally this big guy showed up. He was hungry, so he hung around long enough for me to get a few nice shots.

And with a bit of cropping he turned into a perfect fit for the rule of thirds. I love the colors of spring, the brilliant green of the grass and the bold yellow of his feathers.

Even with the continuous cold rain this image reminds me of warm summer days to come. I hope you feel warmer too.


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Narrowing it down to ten

I’m almost at the end of my 365 day challenge of posting one image from each of my daily walks for an entire year.

It was a daunting challenge and one I didn’t exactly meet. I was supposed to walk every day, and that didn’t always happen. And apparently I’ve lost about 2 weeks along the way. My Facebook memories said I was posting day 1 a year ago, and here I have 11 more days to go until I get to day 365.

Still it was fun, and I definitely did more walking than I might have without the challenge. Even if some of it was after dinner in a last ditch effort to get a walk in and find something interesting to shoot before the light slipped away.

I copied each photo from my Facebook post to an image file, and periodically I’ve set that up as a slideshow and looked at all of them again. It takes more than half an hour to move through them all now.

The collection provides a wonderful reference to my year, reminding me of all the wonderful places I’ve been, all the great sights I’ve seen.

OK, some of the images aren’t that good, but there are many I’m proud of. And I wonder if I could choose the ten best images of this past 365 days.

I clicked through the file tonight, writing down the numbers of any shot that made me smile, that made me go back for a second look, the shots that are becoming my favorites.

So far I have thirty-one of them. And I have eleven days to go.

I don’t know if I can narrow it down to just ten. And would they be my favorites because the image was good, or because it reminded me of a favorite place or time?

The images in this post might or might not be on my favorites list. I’ll try to get it down to ten after the project is a wrap.

But I don’t know that I can.


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This week’s smile

Trent, over on Trent’s World, hosts a weekly blog post that collects smiles from bloggers all over the world. This week his featured smile is the bees that survived the Notre Dame fire.

And he wonders what all of us have found to smile about lately.

I did plenty of smiling this week, given the first part of the week I spent in Florida, walking beaches and exploring parks, and especially hanging with good people and wonderful dogs.

Hi mama!

And of course I flew home on Wednesday to my husband and my Katie-girl. Lots to smile about there too.

Then last night I attended a community orchestra concert in a small town about an hour from here.

A fun evening.

On the early evening drive over to the venue the sky was filled with big beautiful blue bottomed clouds. I wished I had my camera and time to find a place to stop.

I had neither.

The concert was fun, and it was good to see an almost full house to support a community orchestra. There were some really talented people playing, and you could tell they were having a great time.

Pretty amazing!

After it was over I emerged from the high school to see the clouds were thinning, but still in evidence. And they were turning purple and pink.

The barns were glowing.

With only my phone to capture the beauty and in a community I didn’t know I set out trying to find an open field with a place to pull over before all the light was gone.

Everything was beautiful.

I got a few good shots, and that, in combination with the evening’s music, made me smile.

What made you smile this week?

The last glow of a great evening.


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Nobody asked me if I wanted to go

Katie here.

You’re going to think I’m being repetitive if every time you hear from me it’s to complain about mama. Yet here I am once again having to deal with a mama that obviously doesn’t think about me before she goes off and has a good time.

This time it was even worse because she came home after being gone a whole week and she smelled like my boyfriend Reilly! Can you believe that?

Denny and Reilly my boyfriend at the beach.

She went to visit Reilly and his little brother Denny and she didn’t take me!

OK. So yes she flew and yes I would not like flying. And yes I didn’t have to go to camp and yes my daddy was with me and yes daddy and I had a great time.

So maybe it wasn’t all that bad. I guess.

She came home Wednesday night and I made sure to get her up very early Thursday so that we could spend lots and lots of quality minutes together.

She was very appreciative.

Red skies early in the morning.

She did get to see the sunrise because of me. She said it was pretty. I guess it probably was, I don’t know because I went back to sleep as soon as she was up and moving around.

She did take me to my favorite park Thursday afternoon and we even got to watch some guys do a managed burn at one of my other parks!

This was at one of my parks!

I’ve never seen that before, it would have been scary if I hadn’t been in my car with my mom right by me. Mom thought it was very interesting even though emotionally she has a hard time with something burning up right in front of her eyes.

Me at my park, with the burned area right across the creek.

Mama said she liked the bits of spring she found better than all the smoke and flames across the way.

Hope buds eternal.

And she says we better enjoy it while we can because those weather people are predicting snow this weekend.

So anyway…I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on mama. My Mr. Reilly wanted her to visit for a few days and she went to take care of him, and I’m thankful she could do that, cause Mr. Reilly is a very very special guy.

I hear the boys are very good at asking for treats too.

The fact that mama got to walk on the beach without me is something I will just have to forgive. Forgiving will be easier if there are treats involved. You, my faithful readers, may want to remind mama of that important detail.

Guess who forgot to bring treats on this walk?

She seems to have forgotten that part of our contract.

Talk later,

Your gal Katie, patience is my middle name.

Yea. Right.

You can’t hide treats from me mama!


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Dutton Island Preserve

On my last full day in Florida my friend took me to another sort of park. Not on the ocean, no waves pounding the shore, no shells to collect.

I loved the subtle color of the grass curving into the brilliant blue of the water.

No, Dutton Island Preserve is quieter, more reflective and sits among the salt marshes, an entirely different world.

The water was so still.

We walked among tall pines and over boardwalks. We listened to the birds calling, and watched for fish to jump.

So much texture and color!

It was a small park compared to the vastness of the ocean, but it was beautiful. Though we only saw one woodpecker, we heard plenty of things rustling in the grass or hopping about overhead.

Hungry bird.

It was a wonderful way to wind down a lovely week spent in the warm sun with good friends and good dogs.

Great day for a paddle.


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Little Talbot Island State Park

Monday my friend took me out to Little Talbot Island State Park where we wandered on a beach totally different from the beach at Mayport Naval Base.

Wide sandy beaches meet the turquoise ocean.

Instead of a beach covered in shells crunching under foot there was a wide span of white sand stretching as far as the eye could see.

And hardly anyone was out there aside from a few people fishing from the shore.

More birds than people at the beach on Monday.

We walked a long way. I kept noticing how the sand changed the further we went. The tide was out and the hard packed sand showed evidence of how the water had massaged the sand into fascinating shapes, then left it to bake in the Florida sun.

Memories of the last tide etched in the sand.

I kept taking pictures of the sand, thinking to myself…who does this? Who focuses on the sand and not the beautiful vistas?

Don’t you wonder how this pattern was made?

Well…I do.

And you’ve already seen beautiful beaches with turquoise water reflecting brilliant blue skies. I wanted you to see something different.

The colors of the water close to shore were spectacular.

Next time you’re out on a beach somewhere look down and pay attention to what you see. There’s all sorts of color and patterns there, mostly taken for granted.

The last bit of water flows back to the ocean.

Interesting things live there too, like this ghost crab that we found far from his home on dry land where he would typically live.

Don’t mess with me people!

We think a bird picked him up and dropped him out near the water. He was in rare fighting form, always facing us and waving his claws. I thought he looked a bit like a Lego robot myself.

This looked like the badlands of South Dakota as seen from a plane.

Most of all we just walked and enjoyed the beauty of the water and the beauty of the sand and sun.

Sunshine, palm trees, sand and water.

And we enjoyed the fact that we are retired and can spend a Monday afternoon doing nothing more than appreciating the world around us.

A lonely beach didn’t feel lonely at all.

I hope you can all take a moment to do the same, no matter where you are.

Driftwood looks like angel wings flying into the sky.

And Katie-girl….I’ll be home soon.

Definitely not in Michigan.