Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Still smiling

I have a lot going on, some of which you’ll undoubtedly read about next week. But I didn’t want this week to get away without smiling.

Now I know you’ve seen my ‘through the window’ bird shots just last post.

Look at all the detail in her feathers. There are little white hearts in there, perfect for February and Valentine’s Day.

And I know she’s just a starling, though as a European starling I guess she is rather exotic.

But since I’d never seen one before, and since she stops by every day now to get some lunch, and since I think she’s just so darn cute I thought you wouldn’t mind seeing her again.

A girl’s got to be nimble to get the good stuff here at the bottom.

Because she makes me smile every time I see her chowing down on that suet.

Who say’s I’m chowing, lady? I’m daintily having brunch.

Oh…and these guys make me smile too.

I like the bird flying away in the background.

And this one…

Maybe she won’t notice me way over here.

And even this one.

Just pretend I’m a bird, OK lady?

What made you smile this week? Post about it and link to Trent’s smile post and he’ll recap on Monday!

Waiting in line for lunch.


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Bad bird photos

It’s not that the birds are bad. No, the birds are, as always, just being birds. It’s the images I got of them that are bad. But I have an excuse.

From the backside of this large-ish brown speckeled bird, can you tell what he or she is?

I was grabbing quick shots of birds that I wanted to identify — birds that are not usually at my feeders or standing still in my yard here in lower Michigan.

Sharing the feeder with a bluejay so you can get an idea how big the brown bird is.

I was shooting from across a room because I couldn’t get close to the window in fear of scaring them away. And of course the windows are filthy.

Blury, but you can see the shape of the head. From the beak I thought maybe woodpecker, but young red bellied woodpeckers (about this size) have white stripes across the back. If you look close there is an adult red bellied woodpecker on the other side of that suet.

On top of all that the light was bad both days.

Today this guy showed up. What kind of hawk do you think it is?

But still, there’s enough here to identify these two…right? So….I need help…any ideas what they are?

Dirty windows, bad light and extreme cropping doesn’t hide how beautiful he or she is.


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Behind the fog

I’m up early this Saturday morning because, as usual, Katie is up early. But I can’t place the blame solely on her; before she demanded breakfast I was already awake.

A dreary day is brightened by a visitor.

Katie and I wander the dark yard after her morning meal, looking for the perfect spot. It feels warm, at 36F (2.22C), though of course it is not. Fog drifts above the melting snow, drips from the trees sounding loud in the silence that envelops an early Saturday morning.

My mind is in a fog too.

I heard from a high school friend last night that the latest treatment for her cancer hadn’t worked, tests results are in and she and her doctors are moving on to another type of chemo. I don’t know how many different treatments she’s tried in this past year, but this is by far not the first failure.

When I received her text I told my husband and he sat down heavily with a sigh. “So many…” he said then drifted off into silence. We have several friends in different stages of treatment for cancer.

I remember my Dad, years ago, saying that the Christmas letters they received had morphed from talking about their marriages, to their jobs, to their kids, their kids graduations, marriages, grandchildren, and by the end of his life Christmas letters were filled with health issues. But I thought my folks were lots older than I am now when all that health stuff started.

Puffed up against the cold he knew he looked magnificent.

But when I think about it…no…they were just about our age. When did our lives and schedules begin to revolve around doctor appointments? How did we slide so effortlessly into this place where our own mortality stands starkly in front of us?

Heavy thoughts for so early in the morning but maybe early morning is the best time to contemplate the wholeness of life.

Katie grabbed a toy when we got back inside, offering it to me, wanting a bit of play before she wandered off for her morning nap. She reminds me that there is still fun and goodness and hope in all our lives.

Coming in close to offer comfort.

She’s snoring now and I’m sorting through yesterday’s photos. Some people believe cardinals represent visits from our loved ones. I can’t prove that one way or the other, but this morning I find comfort and smiles and a bit of hope all rolled into these shots.

Today I will think about my friends and their struggles and hope that the sun comes out for a bit wherever they are, that the fog lifts and hope shines and a cardinal wings it’s way into their lives too.

A bit of a snack before heading out.


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And then there was sun, so we all smiled

Katie here! Ha!! I bet you forgot all about me! Here it is January 21 and this is my first post of 2020!

Blue skies always makes it seem warmer out there.

Mama says I shouldn’t get my fur in a wad, that people aren’t really thinking about me anyway, that I’m not that important, and seriously why don’t I go take a nap.

Sometimes mama can be a bit insensitive.

I told her that may be but I bet everybody out there needs a smile by now, January being so cold and long and stuff. Why I heard it got down to the 40s in Florida! Heavens! 🙂

I bet this dock is a lot busier in July mama!

So today, with the sun shining on fresh white snow and the sky a deep blue, I told mama that we needed to go for a real walk, not just down the driveway to the mailbox. And do you know what she said?

She said “You are absolutely right baby-girl (she calls me baby-girl when she knows she was wrong but she doesn’t want to apologize.) And the next thing I know I’m at a park!

Limbs reaching toward the sky.

Hot diggity dog! I love going to parks when it’s cold out. I just prance my little hiney right down the path. Mama didn’t even take too many pictures (though to be honest, can there be too many pictures of me?)

A nice wide path sure was fun to walk (and sit) on!

We couldn’t go down mama’s favorite paths, deep in the woods, cause now that there’s snow those are all cross country ski trails. I told mama she could rent some skies for her and me and we could still go up and down those hills and she said if we did that it would be a sight to behold. Plus we’d probably break something important. Like our legs.

So we just walked where the signs said we could.

Winter walkers go left please.

Mama thought it was sort of boring, but I thought it was perfect. A nice, plowed path for me to trot on, lots of pee-mail to read. Can’t beat that.

Then mama said she wanted to go up this hill where some people with snowshoes had hiked. I said “no way mama! Why would I want to tromp through deep snow? You try walking through snow that comes up to your chest!”

Let’s go see what’s up there!

She just laughed and kept on walking so I scampered up the hill to make her happy. I even let her take a picture or two. The things I put up with just to make mama happy.

You’re right, mama, it IS pretty up here!

Anyway, I figured you’d need a Katie fix by now. I hope this made you smile. If it did, or if you smiled about something else this week, write a post and link to Trent’s blog. He’ll do a recap of all the weekly smiles next Monday.

Come ON, mama! Let’s get going, you’ve got plenty of pictures already.

Meanwhile, if the sun is shining make sure you get outside even if it’s only for a little bit. It makes the winter go by faster, and even though winter is my favorite season, I like to see mama smile more, so I’m rooting for spring to arrive any time now.

Signing off for now, your smiling sheltie-girl Katie.

I need my supper and a nap now!


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2020 sounds so cool

I don’t know how it can possibly be 2020 already. Wasn’t it 1978 just yesterday? Or maybe the day before. At the most.

But we’re already more than half way through January of 2020 and if I’m going to put together a list of stupendous things to do this year I had better get going. Oh, I know, I know, I didn’t get everything on the 2019 list done.

I guess I should start with those things I didn’t get done but that I still want to do. That would include:

*Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

*Improve my night photography skills.

*Spend a week in the Southwest.

*Ride my bike on some of the rails-to-trails around here.

*Spend several weeks in Alabama and invite friends to join me.

Wow! That’s a lot of stuff still to get done, but I’m sure there are more fun things I can do in a year with such a cool number.

How about:

*Walk in at least 3 5K races.

*Travel to Florida to meet the baby sheltie boys.

*Purchase a set of extension tubes for the Nikon and explore macro photography.

*Make more vegetarian or vegan meals, goal being at least one per week.

*Take a drawing class.

*Take Katie camping at least twice this summer.

Glad I got included, mama!

And here’s one that was accomplished from the 2019 list but needs to be on the 2020 list as well:

*Meet up with other sheltie moms for doggie adventures. Because everyone needs more adventures.

I feel like I’m missing some fun stuff…what else do you think I should add to this 2020 list of stupendous fun stuff to do?

Obviously any adventures should include me mama!


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Cello Tales

A year ago, January 9th, 2019, I posted a list of fun stuff I hoped to do. Better than resolutions, these were things that I’d thought about doing over the years but just hadn’t accomplished.

Making a sound on a cello was one of my crazier ideas. It was so crazy in fact that I could never successfully explain just what I meant – or even why it was a thing for me.

A cello at rest.

Probably because I wasn’t even sure myself.

But as of Wednesday, one day short of a full year later, because of two lovely ladies who went out of their way to make my wish come true, I can check hugging a cello off my to-dream list.

Learning the basics, with Joan, our host, standing in the back and Carol with her cello.

And I’m not so sure I can find words to share the experience with you.

Joan got a lesson too.

Our host was a professor from my days at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. We’ve kept in touch off and on over the ten years since I graduated and last month she read about my cello hugging dream and knew that she could help me realize it.

Learning how to hold the bow.

She coordinated with a cello playing friend of hers who, it turns out, didn’t mind at all letting some novice stranger sit with her cello and hold her bow while making noises unrelated to music.

Carol was so patient.

There’s a lot to playing a cello. Two hands doing different things, one bulky instrument leaning against you, knees and arms encircling it’s girth. Fingers to grip the bow just so, relax the shoulder, movement from the elbow only, the angle of the bow on the strings, how the fingers of the left hand press down just from the tips. What to do with your left thumb.

Turns out Joan’s husband was a natural.

So much to remember.

But when I got everything right a low round tone would swell out of the instrument. Not as beautiful a sound as when our instructor played, but still pretty nice. And each time I played a clear note I could feel the sound reverberate right though my soul and fill me up.

Not quite a virtuoso, but smiling.

Amazing.

There was so much to remember that I couldn’t take my eyes off of my own hands to look at music. Which is just as well. Because, well, cello music!

I thought it was written in base clef and it often is. But when the notes get high enough it switches to treble clef! So you could be reading along and suddenly your brain would have to switch clefs? And to make it even more insane, there’s also a tenor and an alto clef!

Carol played for us after we were finished making noise on her cello.

I saw at least three clefs on one of the pieces of music she shared with us. The different clefs are needed because the cello has such a wide range of notes, from very low to quite high. All those notes won’t fit on any single staff…so the composer can just include several different clefs in a single piece, and those talented cello players deal with it.

Mind boggling.

The next time I’m enjoying cellos playing in the symphony or a quartet, or even in a DC subway, I’ll have a better understanding and admiration for their talents. The sounds are spectacular. The brains and hands of the artists are astounding.

Those fingers on the left hand had no clue what they were doing.

It was so much fun. I am indebted to the women who willingly shared their lives and time with me just so I could learn something about an instrument I have always admired. If everyone could hug a cello the world would be a better place, and I’m grateful to have had the experience.

I drove home in late afternoon sunshine under fat, purple bottomed clouds that were chasing a three quarter moon. I tried to pinpoint what the experience had felt like.

It felt round and strong and deep and soft, sort of like the golden light falling all around me as I drove.

It felt beautiful.

The moon rises over a wonder filled day.


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Windy smile

As you know, Trent hosts a weekly prompt over on his blog looking for smiles. And, as you know, one of the things that makes me smile is Lake Michigan – especially Lake Michigan and light houses.

So I picked up a friend of mine, the same friend that went with me last year to Pt. Betsie in -13 degrees with an unimaginable windchill, and we headed on over to Michigan’s west coast. Sunday the weather was better, with a temperature hovering around 32 degrees (0C).

We were very appreciative of that alone.

It was a blustery day on the Lake.

When we got to Grand Haven there was wind, but not nearly as much as we had hoped – the waves were perhaps five feet high. Still it was so pretty. There was a guy in his kayak bobbing among the waves. We thought he was crazy.

Crazy man.

I noticed later when I was reviewing pictures, that he was wearing a GoPro. Somewhere on YouTube there is likely a very cool (literally) video. I should go try to find it. He got out of the water shortly after we arrived, and the rest of our time there we took a few pictures, interspersed with longer periods of sitting in the car waiting to see if the wind picked up.

It didn’t, so we went to lunch, then traveled further south to South Haven, where the wind seemed stronger, but the lake floor was deeper and the waves not as big as we’d hoped.

But the sun came out!

The sun made even the wind a little more bearable.

It was pretty there too, but not exactly what we had envisioned. We drove up onto the bluff to see if we could capture the turquoise of the lake better from a higher vantage point.

A different angle shows off the colors of the lake.

It was getting late, but we decided to stop at one more beach. We drove up the coast to Holland. By then the sun had hidden behind dense clouds again and the wind was howling.

And there we found a wind surfer.

Getting ready to be crazy.

I had trouble keeping him and his sail in the frame. The wind was grabbing me and my lens and focusing was almost impossible.

I missed getting the sail in this shot, but it shows how high he went.

He let the sail pull him high up into the air, where he began doing acrobats, twisting and turning, sometimes feet above his head.

Even the surfers were busy watching the guy with the wind sail.

We both got our feet wet on the beach in Holland as we were focused on the kite and it’s passenger, instead of the waves racing on the sand.

Riding the wind.

But we were smiling so much we didn’t even care.

Fun under a dark sky.

What made you smile this week? Write a post and link to Trent’s blog and he’ll send out a recap on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing what perked you up this early January week.

South Haven lighthouse enjoys an early winter bath.


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That stupendous things to do list from 2019

A few of you will remember that in January 2019 I put together a list of interesting, stupendous and fun stuff to do. Sort of like a list of resolutions but much more relaxed.

I’ll admit I only studied the list on occasion, never put together a process of reviewing it once a month, and never added anything to it during the year like I thought I might. In fact it sat on my dresser for several months and then, as with most resolution type things, it got covered up in the debris of every day life.

But I didn’t forget it, and I thought it might be interesting to see how many of the fun things I actually got to do last year!

2019 Interesting, Stupendous and Fun Things

*Visit the Point Betsie lighthouse in the winter to see the ice formations.
Thanks to a friend who got excited at this idea, got us a hotel room and drove, I headed north right away. It was fun and very very cold! Point Betsie is beautiful no matter what season, and we saw other beautiful things the next day too!

*Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (not in winter).
While I didn’t actually camp in the UP I did spend some time there this past September. We saw a whole lot of beautiful things before we headed up into Canada for our drive around Lake Superior. And last month I made two reservations for camp sites in the UP for this June. I can’t wait.

*Try acrylic painting.
I purchased a few colors and a few small canvases and I mooshed some paint around a couple times. That was fun. But it didn’t really seem like it was a good try. This year I think I need to make a space to work where I’m not afraid of making a mess. So this will stay on the 2020 list.

*Find someone willing to teach me what it’s like to make a sound on a cello.
This is the stupendous thing that is most difficult for me to explain to anyone. And it’s very dependent on being able to find someone to help me. The bad news is that I didn’t get this worked out in 2019. The wonderful news is that next week I have a date with a cello! One of my library school professors knows someone who is willing to let me hug her cello, and we’re all going to get together in Ann Arbor on Wednesday. It almost makes me tear up, and I can’t explain why. I hope I’ll have words to tell you all about it soon.

*Gain confidence on the new Nikon camera, and figure out what the optimum lens is.
This is another one that I’ve made some progress on, but couldn’t say that I’ve completed. I am definitely better with manual settings; I’ve been experimenting all year. Sometimes I think I’ve got it…and then often I have to figure it all out again. And more good news, I am taking a class from a professional photographer at the end of January that revolves around choosing lenses. I’m excited about that, and I’m sure you’ll hear more on this topic soon.

*Improve night photography skills.
Oh I have a blog post to write about this one. While we were in the UP in September the northern lights were predicted to appear. And we had the perfect location too. But you will note that you never heard about it…even though I have pictures to share. I think about posting them, and then I think….just another failure, and I’ve shown you so many night shots that weren’t what I was hoping for. Still…it makes a really good story and I suppose I should share. I’ll keep trying this year. In fact, those two UP campsites I booked were reserved specifically with the hope I have clear skies during the nights I’m there.

*Spend a week in the Southwest.
This didn’t happen. Mostly because I fell and injured both wrists a couple weeks before we thought we were going out there. And then we ended up traveling so much we couldn’t fit it in…and then I fell at the end of summer and broke my finger and was stuck here doing physical therapy. But it’s definitely on the 2020 list!

*Visit husband’s family in Norway.
This was our big trip of the year. You saw several posts from Norway – it’s a beautiful country and we only saw a tiny part. We’d like to go back and explore more.

*Walk the CRIM 10 mile race in August.
Well, I ran and walked it. I had fun right up till the last two blocks when I fell and broke my finger. I am debating whether to do it again this year.

*Spend a month or more in Alabama, invite friends to visit while I’m there.
It’s amazing, but I never made it to Alabama at all in 2019. The last time I was there was July of 2018. I just couldn’t seem to carve out enough time, between injuries and trips, to get there. But Alabama now a high priority for 2020!

*Look into the purchase of a 2nd kayak for the lake.
I’ve done a little looking but this is something I want to do when I’m down in Alabama, so I’ll just tag that onto the “get to Alabama soon!” bullet point.

*Read 50 books, and try at least one from a genre I don’t usually read.
According to Goodreads I read 66 books in 2019, though I don’t think I read any that were definitely different genres then my typical reading. I read a couple books written by women who had decided to give up coloring their hair and had let it go naturally grey. I’ve decided, after much thought, to do that too. So far I’m 3 months into it and it’s kind of making me nuts. I see my hair person next week for a trim, we’ll see if I’m still going grey after that.

*Ride my bike on some of the rail-to-trails around here, maybe a one day bike trip complete with lunch along the way, maybe with a local bike group.
I never did this. Never road my bike at all. This is very sad. I think I need to move it up in importance for 2020.

*Walk and photograph the Dequindre Cut here in Detroit.
Again, thanks to the same friend who went with me to Point Betsie, we explored the Dequindre Cut last spring. It was so much fun!

*Meetup with sheltie mom(s) for adventure.
In November Katie and I got to go for a walk with Abby, a sheltie-girl and her mom. They live a couple hours away and we met in the middle and had a lovely walk on one of the last nice days of fall. We hope to get together again, and I hope to meet with more shelties and their parents in 2020!

So…I got to do a lot of the fun stuff on my list…and missed getting a few others done by just a little. I’m debating if I should put together an official list stupendous things to do in 2020.

What are you planning on doing for fun in 2020? And do you think I need a list or should I just wing it?

I think you should have more stupendous things on your list that include me mama!