Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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When Katie smiles

We’re on a roller-coaster around here. Katie has mostly good days, but even during those I can sometimes detect, if I’m observant, her underlying kidney disease.

During an early morning neighborhood walk today.

When I took her to a park to celebrate her 15th birthday a couple weeks ago, I thought we were both having fun. She was walking through the woods with me, sniffing things like always. But our walk was much shorter than normal, and when I looked at the photos after, I didn’t see the usual joy in her eyes. She wasn’t smiling in any of the images.

It was a frosty sort of morning.

That made me stop and really think about the quality of her life, and whether or not she would let me know when she was done. It’s hard to consider end of life procedures when she’s still excited about her meals, still wants to go outside. Still wags her whole behind when you walk in the door.

Is still so beautiful.

You know it’s my supper time again. Right mama?

And then we had a day like today, sunshine and 30 degree temperatures. Perfect sheltie weather. We went on multiple walks around the neighborhood, none of which she wanted to end.

Today, checking her park.

We went to her park — I was thinking we’d just walk around the pond, sure that she wouldn’t have the stamina to walk all the way around the park.

What are you doing taking pictures, mama? We have a whole park to explore!

But once we were there I let her make the decisions and she never once sat down or asked me to pick her up. We took it slow, but we walked all the way around her park’s perimeter, just about a mile.

It sure is a pretty day mama. I get a treat for posing, right?

That, on top of all the walks in the neighborhood should have exhausted her, but she’s been asking for her (numerous) meals right on schedule. And we’ve been on another walk around the neighborhood this evening.

It was a good day, mama!

I’ve looked at the images I took during our park adventure today. I’m pretty sure she was smiling. I guess it’s not time yet. Not today anyway, probably not tomorrow or the day after that either.

Yep, I’m still the Princess Katie and this is my park!

My girl. She and I are lucky we have more time together.

Still so beautiful.


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Broken heart

It’s now a proven fact that walking quickly on a treadmill, especially at an incline while wearing a mask, is not fun. I had a stress test this morning, as if life in times of covid isn’t already stressful enough.

While the tech was gathering “before” ultrasound images of my heart I gazed up at the ceiling wondering what a broken heart looked like. And if he’d be able to see that mine surely was.

Dad and his sister.

Seventeen years ago this morning my dad was killed, while slowed in traffic, by a semitruck driver who fell asleep at the wheel. Dad never had a chance.

So today I wonder about a lot of things. Whether our driver ever thinks about the man he killed. Whether today’s date stirs his heart like it stirs the hearts of my family. Whether he measures time in before and afters like we do.

And I think a lot about the recent sentence of the truck driver in Colorado who killed four people and injured several more in a firey crash in 2019. Colorado laws required that sentences for each of the charges he was convicted of be served consequently, and that’s why his sentence was 110 years.

Being a big brother.

Is 110 years too long? I don’t know. What is the right number of years for killing a person, intentionally or not? The Colorado driver made several bad decisions on his way to that devastating crash, the most important being him passing the truck runoff lane on his way to rear ending all those cars.

The driver that killed my dad made several bad decisions too, the most important being continuing to drive tired and not stopping at the state visitor center only 12 miles prior to the crash site. But in Georgia his bad decisions resulted in a misdemeanor and the max time he could serve in jail was 30 days. Is 30 days too short a time to pay for negligence that results in the death of someone else?

Being a dad at Christmas.

On one hand I’m sorry the Colorado driver got such a heavy sentence because it’s garnering sympathy for the driver. He says he wishes he had died instead of all those people. I thought for a moment that he felt remorse. And then he added, he wishes he had died ‘because this is no life.” His statement reflects his own fear and frustration and loss rather than any feeling of responsibility. Lost in all of the hyperbole are the injured, the dead, and their families. The real victims of this crash.

On the other hand, I am grateful that the Colorado driver got such a heavy sentence, because it’s bringing attention to these types of crashes which occur all too frequently. Time and time again I hear the same story. Someone was stopped in traffic. A truck doesn’t stop, for any number of reasons. People die horrible deaths. Truck drivers die too. Some people survive to live lives that are never the same.

Everybody involved lives in a world of before and after.

Being a dad to such a big family carries a lot of responsibility.

Earlier this week I attended a Zoom meeting with several volunteers of the Truck Safety Coalition. We’re trying to get through the holidays by leaning on each other. My heart, toughened by seventeen years of scarring, broke again as I listened to several new stories.

One young man feels lost because his fiancé was killed on her way to work a few months ago. They had a whole life planned — he was helping her get through nursing school, after which she would work and help him get through pilot school. Now he sits in their apartment stunned as he trys to come to terms of his ‘after.’

And another young person has been married only eighteen months when her husband was hit by a semi last month. He’s in an ICU now, can’t move, is on a ventilator and communicates by blinking his eyes. She had just started law school. Now she sits with him, advocating for his care in a hospital short staffed and overrun with covid. It’s not clear yet what their ‘after’ will look like.

Being appreciated by his employer.

That night our group talked a little bit about the Colorado driver and his sentence. The widow of one of the victims of that crash is new to our organization. She doesn’t want his sentence commuted. She says the people pushing for that have not sat through three weeks of testimoney. That they don’t know the whole truth.

She says that she, and all of us, were handed life sentences, too, the day that marked our own before and afters.

We used to laugh a lot. Before.

It’s a complicated issue and will take more pondering on my part before I know exactly where I stand. Meanwhile, I’ll start again repairing my battle scarred heart. No matter how many layers of patches I’ve put on it, it seems to break just as easily as it did seventeen years ago.

Thank you all for reading this far. Drive carefully. Stay safe. Protect that heart of yours and hug your families close. It’s a proven fact that broken hearts can’t ever be entirely healed.

I imagine he has an ocean view now too.


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No place like home

We’re hunkered down again, staying away from indoor groups of people, hoping to get through this latest surge in covid.

Nom, nom, nom.

But actually hunkering down here isn’t that bad. I have a beautiful yard to explore with my girl…

Waiting his turn.

…and lots of birds visiting daily.

And yesterday it snowed which made everything so much prettier.

Snowy holiday light.

Funny how fun snow is now that I’m retired.

Ho ho ho.

Yep, there’s no place like home for the holidays.


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Vacuum cleaner blues

Katie didn’t bark at the vaccum cleaner this morning. If she was a young dog I’d be thrilled, certain that I’d desensitized her, trained her not to go balistic whenever I pulled it out of the closet.

But she’s barked at that vaccum every single time I’ve used it for the past fifteen years.

This morning she just looked at me with sad eyes and wandered off to nap.

My eyes are leaky.


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The Princess celebrates a birthday

Katie here! Guess what, guess what, guess what??!!

Today is my 15th birthday! I wanted to share it with all of you because I was sure there would be balloons and presents tied up in pretty ribbon and visitors singing to me, and of course, cake!

I got to go on a birthday walk over the weekend! Don’t tell anyone but it’s not really a wilderness.

I mean, 15 is a milestone age, right?

There were a few times this year my folks didn’t think I’d get to see this day. With the surgery back in April to save my life when my gall bladder filled up with sludge and then the harsh antibiotics I had to take because they found infection in me and then the kidney disease…well…things haven’t always look so good this year.

The late afternoon light was amazing.

Mama says it’s been a roller coaster. I don’t know what that means cause I never get to do anything fun, but I can tell mama and daddy have been stressed.

All the more reason to spend today celebrating me and eating cake! I’m sure you agree.

Years ago there were farm fields here, this is part of a rock fence line.

But mama says I need to be more realistic, and that cake isn’t good for me, and balloons would just scare me and that I can’t expect people to just show up and start singing to me. Besides I’m deaf, so singing might not be the best way to celebrate.

Plus she said I’d just bark at people and balloons anyway.

So you know what we’re doing instead? We’re going to the vet, that’s what we’re doing!

We didn’t walk real far, but I was so glad to be in the woods!

Yes, you read that right. Mama made a vet appointment for me on my birthday. I swear the woman has no sense of appropriatness at all.

I’m just a little girl in the big woods.

To be honest, she didn’t make the appointment until yesterday. And she only made it because I’ve been throwing up after I eat. Three times this past week. She and daddy are worried and the vet said to get me in there, so she scheduled it even though it was my birthday.

This was a giant fungus. Mama made me pose next to it a few years ago too.

And then she said seeing the vet and making sure we do everything we can to make me more comfortable is the best present they could give me.

I guess. But cake would have been good too. Just saying.

This was a nice spot to stop and rest. Or get a treat.

I did get a real present from my daddy this past weekend. It came in a box from the nice guy who drives the big noisy brown truck. I got to sniff it and everything. I was excited because everything that comes into this house should be for me.

What’s in there daddy?

I’m sure you agree.

Daddy ordered it for me after mama told him I was having trouble eating out of my bowl on the floor. My bad right foot kept slipping out to the side as I tried to get my head way down there.

Those of you that are older like me know how hard it is to get up off the floor the older you get. Well, I was having trouble getting my nose way down there into the bowl, but I love eating so I wasn’t complaining.

Hey daddy! This is perfect!

The day mama noticed my problem she ended up holding the bowl up higher for me, and letting me brace my sliding foot against her. Eating is much easier with a little help.

I just love the dinner and water dish thingy daddy got me! It’s the perfect height for a girl of my stature. And it has the perfect angle too, though it’s designed to have the bowls propped up at an angle or flat. I like them propped up.

You really get me, don’t you daddy!

So I can’t say I didn’t get anything for my birthday. I just didn’t get cake. Mama is such a strict dietitian. If any of you want to sneak me a treat I won’t tell.

And if you want to sing to me while you’re slipping me that biscuit, I’ll smile and pretend I can hear you.

A birthday walk AND a new dinner dish. Guess my birthday wasn’t a complete washup after all.

Talk later,

Your 15 year old Katie-girl.

Birthday nap. Daddy got me the pink princess rug too.


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Masked magic

Our community band has been rehearsing since September for last night’s Christmas concert. It hasn’t been easy. As librarian I sit on the board and we met numerous times, over the long months when we couldn’t play together, to access the situation.

Getting ready.

When we finally could meet again it was under the strict rules of the school system whose buildings we use. Everyone needed to be masked, even when playing our instruments. The instruments themselves had to have bell covers. And our audience had to remain masked at all times too.

Last minute instructions.

This fall we polled our members, asking whether they felt comfortable playing together under these guidelines. About 50% of the band agreed to play. I agreed too, but with trepidation. I am still uneasy being around other people in a closed space. Even if we are all masked up.

A special guest arrives.

But we all tried to be careful, and it was so good to make music again. Even if we sounded a bit ragged, given all the parts weren’t covered. Even though we only had one poor lonely percussionist, and holiday music is full of percussion!

Some rehearsals made me wonder if we’d get our stuff together in time.

We were lucky to have some high school players come in at the last moment to help us. Lots of percussionists, three clarinetists, and several others helped fill in the holes and our sound filled out.

Sleigh Ride isn’t right unless Santa conducts.

And, as is usual in community bands, when everyone shows up for the concert we show up focused, and we played so much better last night than at any one of our rehearsals.

You wouldn’t have been able to tell, because we were wearing masks, but I think every one of us was grinning by the end.

Making music is magic. We are so lucky that we were able to do that last night.

Thanks to our guest conductor, Paul!

The audience gave us a standing ovation. I don’t know if they were just anxious to leave, or glad to hear live music again after such a long break.

I think I’ll just assume they were grinning behind their masks too.


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Whiting Overlook Park

After seeing several photographs of eagles and pelicans on Facebook I decided to head up to Midland and see this park for myself.

Nature and industry coexisting.

I could tell from many of the photos that this was not a conventional park filled with hiking trails and wide swaths of woods for wandering.

But I was still surprised to find that it consisted of a parking lot on top of a high hill overlooking ponds which are part of the Dow Chemical complex.

As I drove up the hill I could see an eagle sitting in a tree.

Guarding the park.

The light wasn’t good, a bank of clouds was encroaching on the sunshine I’d left at home, two hours to the south. Still, on occassion when I first arrived, the sun broke through the clouds.

Oh! And a juvinile down below!

And it was windy! Between trying to focus on the eagle who flew out over the water as soon as I arrived, and trying to keep my hair out of the frame, I almost missed the pelicans swimming very close to the edge of the pond, behind the chain link fence.

It was hard shooting through the chain link fence.

While I was trying to catch an image of them, shooting through the fence, I lost track of the eagle until I heard a whole lot of eagle type noises coming from the trees.

Look closely, there are three juviniles here, all landing in a tree.

Turns out there were three juviniles, all landing close together. I’m pretty sure one of them had a fish.

This little diving duck was surprised when he came up right in front of the pelican!

Pretty much the whole time I was there I was pointing the camera either at the water following the pelicans, or the sky trying to get a sharp image of the eagles.

The light felt like it was evening, but it was 9:30 in the morning.

I was facinated how these beautiful wild birds coexisted so well with industry.

Such an unusual place to witness an eagle in flight.

I was unsure if the eagles coexist with each other quite as well.

Looks like the adult has something to say.

Mostly the eagles soared round and round, higher and higher. I never saw any of them dive into the water, though when they were flying closer to the ponds the ducks seemed to scatter.

The sky was interesting, but made shooting the birds so difficult.

It was hard to keep track of the big birds, they were really very far away. Sometimes the only way I knew where they were was their noisy discussion amongst themselves.

The light caught his head and the lead edge of his wing.

When the sun slid out for a moment it was easier to find the adult, with his bright white head…

Sometimes the tail was the give away.

…and tail.

The whole time I was there, sitting in the car until an eagle took off from a tree, then popping out to try to get an image, I didn’t think I got anything worth looking at.

He turned into a painting.

I was shooting pretty much into the light, what light there was. And the birds were so darn far away. These were all shot with my longest lens, and they are still cropped a whole lot. Hence the painterly looking images.

I think I’ll go back some day when the sun is shining brighter, and perhaps later in the day to get the sun behind me rather than shining in my eyes.

The best part of the day was just sitting and watching them fly.

I felt lucky today that they were so active. I didn’t get the perfect eagle (or pelican for that matter) shot, but I got to see them flying, so much more fun than watching them watch me while they sit still on a branch.

Landing gear down, more pelicans arrive.

None of these images are great, but I had fun, and I figured you’d have fun looking at them too.

Soar like an eagle….

If you’re a birder, this would be a fun place to visit with powerful binoculars. You can sit in the car and watch some amazing birds. Can’t beat it! (You might want to look at these pictures on something bigger than your phone!)

The clouds moved in and I moved out.