Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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It’s National Sheltie Day!

Katie here. (What? You were expecting someone else to tell you about my national day?)

Mama woke up this morning crying and she’s not sure why. Maybe it’s because of all the bad news lately. She’s quite sensitive, my mama, and things like protests turned violent, and people dying, and stores being burned down on top of so many people sick and dying from the virus, well, sometimes it’s just too much.

Let’s celebrate mama!

Lucky for her today is National Sheltie Day! Of course the only reason she knows that is because it turned up in her Facebook memories from last year. To be honest, she’s not even sure there really is a National Sheltie Day, she has suspicions that it’s all made up by someone short and furry in her household.

Ahem.

But I assured her this morning that it was real. I am very persuasive, so she said she’d take me to one of my parks to celebrate and I was all excited. We went to a little park not far from home and I was so happy when I got out of my car!

I sniffed my way up and down the smaller hills at the beginning of the trail.

Yep, something very interesting walked here not long ago.

But when we got to the top of the first big down hill (and uphill on the other side of the creek) I stopped. I looked at mama and she looked at me. She asked me if I wanted to keep going and I wouldn’t move, even when she gave my leash a little tug. She asked me if I wanted to go back to the car and I wouldn’t move, even when she gave my leash a little tug in that direction.

I don’t know, mama, that looks like a really big hill to come back up!

She said we could just stand there awhile if I wanted to. So we did. We stood at the very top of that hill and just listened to the birds and watched a chipmunk scurry in the underbrush. Finally mama asked me again which way I wanted to go and I turned around and headed back to the car.

I saw mama look one last time over her shoulder at the trail. She said her eyes weren’t really wet, she said a bug just flew into them. But I know the truth.

The truth is that it was 62 degrees outside (16.6 C), too hot for this little sheltie girl to want to wander up and down big hills. The truth is that I’m 13 and a half now and walks have to be shorter then they used to be. The truth is that even though I get excited at the thought of an adventure, the actual adventure sort of wears me out.

Thanks for understanding, mama.

Mama and I both know the truth and that was no bug in her eye.

But I’m still smiling, I had a very nice, though short, walk in the woods to celebrate me and my National Sheltie Day. And when we got home mama gave me a frozen banana and peanut butter treat and that made me smile even more!

No matter what, I’ll always be your beautiful girl, huh mama.

Signing off for now, it’s time for me to take my power nap, your elder stateswoman, Katie-girl.

Whatcha done for me lately, mama?


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It’s hard to smile

This week it’s been hard for me to find something to smile about.

So many families with broken hearts this week.

The news was filled with awful things. The virus killing over 100,000 Americans. The protests and violence stemming from the death that reminds us of other similar deaths.

No, this week I didn’t feel much like smiling.

And then my silly girl wouldn’t sit pretty for a picture and I had to smile…just a little.

Reminding us to stop and smell the flowers.

Yes, this week I looked really hard for something to smile about.

Oh, all right mama. I’ll look at your silly camera. Sort of.

And I found it right here at home.

I hope I made you smile too!


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The case of the purple tick…or why you should wear your glasses in the shower

You know when you’re growing your grey hair out, how your hairdresser tells you that you should use this purple shampoo once in awhile? You don’t? Well let me tell you, there’s a lot more to understand about having grey hair than I realized when I made the decision to stop having it colored way back in October.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Late yesterday afternoon I suddenly couldn’t stand being in the house a minute longer.

Not to say it’s not pretty in my own yard.

I’ve been good about staying home, only going out for groceries. Yes I did take Katie to the woods for a walk one day — we saw no one else on the damp, drizzly forest trail. And four weeks ago I took a drive by myself to photograph barns, another instance when I just couldn’t stay here for another moment.

I’m bored too, mama.

Yesterday I just had to go somewhere so I went to a local park, the one where nature trails wander up over grass covered hills. Getting there around 7:00 p.m. I thought the sky looked interesting. Maybe there would be a sunset worth watching.

Wandering up the hill into the evening light.

I had fun just wandering around. Especially when I found a patch of little lupine hidden among the tall grasses. With the sun slowly lowering the blossoms were lit in the prettiest light. I spent some time walking through the grass, crouching down as I tried to get that light just so.

It was hard to get down close enough to show the light showing through the petals.

And then I walked the rest of the way up the hill to see what the sun and clouds had planned for their last show of the evening.

Turned out the sun slid behind a tall pillar of cloud long before sunset officially arrived. And there wasn’t really much color. Still I took a few shots before I wandered back down toward the car.

Not much of a sunset after all.

And that’s when the storm front moved overhead. The sky darkened and became absolutely beautiful with tall white clouds the center of attention against the black ones following close behind.

A bench to sit and watch the show.

I took a lot of pictures of that combination, the black and white clouds hovering low over the rolling hills. The darker it got the more dramatic the sky became.

It became a dark and stormy night.

And the more the mosquitoes swarmed. The swallows began to fly lower, scooping up the bugs and the sky grew darker and I hurried to the car, making it to cover just before the rain set in.

I was pleased with the pictures I had, but less pleased, later that night when I found two ticks, one on my leg, and one on my neck. Well darn. I’m not sure those lupine shots were worth it!

One last look before I ran for the car.

The rest of the night, and all day today I kept thinking I felt things crawling on me. Finally I decided to take a hot shower and before I got in I remembered that purple shampoo I’m supposed to be using once in awhile. It’s been more than awhile since I used it, so I grabbed it out of the cupboard and shampooed up, wondering why grey hair needs purple shampoo. And then I felt it. A little bump, right on top of my head. About the size of a tick.

Sorry, I have no pictures of ticks.

Frantically I squeezed it between two fingers and put it on a shelf where I tried to see what it was. Not wearing glasses I couldn’t see anything. I turned off the water, stepped out of the shower and tried to grab my glasses from the vanity. That movement made the purple shampoo drip into my right eye. It stung. Now I really couldn’t see anything.

Dripping all over the floor I grabbed a towel and tried to clear up the stinging eye, but no luck. And whatever it was was still lurking in the shower. So I put my glasses on and using one eye went back into the shower to examine the ‘bug,’ hoping it hadn’t crawled away.

These yellow flowers are all I ever get to see.

Turns out it was a bit of dried up purple shampoo, from the bottle that hadn’t been used in longer than awhile.

Well that’s a relief. Apparently the cost of the walk in the hills was only two ticks, I guess those pictures were worth it after all. But next time I take a shower to make sure I’m tick free I’m going to put my glasses somewhere I can reach them without getting out of the shower.

And maybe not use the old purple shampoo.

Yep, stuck in the yard, no adventures for me.


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In the woods on a rainy afternoon

Katie here.

Yea, I know. I was just here a few days ago. But really, wouldn’t you rather hear from me than watch television news? Of course you would.

What’s over that way, mama?

So I was guarding the house er, napping this afternoon and mama said I looked old. My head was up but my eyes kept closing and then my head would droop and then I’d wake up and try to keep watch again. Just resting my eyes, you know.

Why do I always have to wait for you, mama?

Anyway, mama asked me if I wanted to go to a park. She said she was going a bit squirreley herself, being in the house so much. Huh. I didn’t know mama could be a squirrel — maybe I better watch her more carefully.

Are you really a squirrel, mama?

The next thing I know I’m in the car and we’re driving to a park! Mama told me we had camping reservations for next week at this park but the reservations got cancelled cause of the virus.

Mama is sad about that and said we could at least walk in the woods near the campground. She said it would be beautiful even though it was sort of raining on us.

Mama thought these raindrops were pretty. I think they were just wet.

Mama was right.

The trees are beginning to leaf out and they are that pretty early spring green. No one else was there. There weren’t even any mosquitoes!

She spent way too much time on this silly acorn.

Mama spent a lot of time taking pictures of little things she thought were pretty. I don’t get it. There’s nothing out there more pretty than me!

Seriously mother? It’s a leaf. Who cares about a leaf?

Sometimes when she took too much time on things not me I’d huff at her. She told me I was being annoying. Do I look like I’m annoying her?

Well, yea. Sometimes I can be a little bit annoying.

Well. Maybe just a little.

And another thing. She told me I looked old. Do I look like I’m old to you?

I don’t like to be left behind. Plus she has treats.

I didn’t think so. Of course this was the only time I ran like this, and I didn’t do it when she asked me to, I did it just because it was fun. Mama was lucky to get the shot. I got a treat for that one!

Anyway, we had a lot of fun walking in the woods. We didn’t walk real far, because it was over 60 degrees (15.55C) and kind of humid. That makes it sort of uncomfortable for me. Frankly I’d like it if it snowed every day, but I guess that’s not what most people want.

Mama found some yellow flowers for me to sit next to. I think she’s taking this yellow flower project too seriously.

After we got done with the walk in the woods mama said we should check out the boat launch because the sky was getting kind of interesting.

I didn’t mind making another stop at all, even if we were approaching my supper time and normally I’d want to be home so as not to miss it. I’d had quite a few treats on our walk so I was good for a little more adventure.

Even with all these clouds it wasn’t raining on me.

It was beautiful out there at the lake! Some people were fishing but we maintained our social distancing just fine.

I posed for mama whenever she asked and when it started to rain and she wanted to go back to the car I didn’t want to go! Mama says I am stubborn, I say I just know what I want.

Two guys and a boat made a nice picture.

And a princess, always, should get what she wants. So we walked for awhile longer in the nice cool rain. It was wonderful.

Pretty colors and a bit of rain.

I’m a happy princess now. I haven’t had an adventure like that in a long time. Mama says it’s to make up for not being able to go camping next week.

I told her she better get the tent put up in the yard, one walk wasn’t going to make it up to me.

If you agree, please let her know. The more people telling her I deserve a couple nights in the tent the better!

Thank you,
Your girl Katie.

Glad you could come along with me on my walk!


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Still mailing those smiles

It seems like I just wrote about the little water color paintings I’ve been doing and sending off each day. But when I look back I see it’s been a month, and in a month there’s been about 30 more little paintings.

Do you want to see some of them? I’ll be honest, I like looking at them, and sometimes it’s hard to mail them away.

But I hear back from most people that receive them, and so far the notes and paintings seem to be doing the job they were sent to do. They are making people smile.

Not every painting has been a success. There have been several failures, though sometimes I look at one of those and think maybe I can salvage it.

I think that especially on Sunday nights when I don’t have anything to mail on Monday. So far I haven’t missed a day and I don’t want to break my streak.

I’ve started doing something specific for people’s birthdays. I’ve even sent a few sympathy cards made from one of my paintings.

I have a few more ideas, but the momentum is slowing down. I planned on continuing this until life gets back to normal, but the reality is that normal is an unknown thing now and may always be.

In fact we may lose our entire summer to this stay at home order here in Michigan. Certainly there will be restrictions for the foreseeable future.

So maybe I’ll continue painting these. If you haven’t received one, please don’t be sad. It’s probably because I don’t have a mailing address for you. You’re welcome to send me an address and I’ll see what I can come up with!


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A very Covid Mother’s Day


Not having a mother still on this earth I hadn’t been paying attention to the upcoming celebration preparations. But today’s newscast reminds me that Sunday is Mother’s Day and that most people won’t be able to celebrate it in traditional ways.

Of course not.

This year most adults in this country will be separated from their moms by more than distance or time, the usual excuses not getting home to visit. Even some younger children, those who didn’t happen to be living with their mothers when all this started, likely won’t be celebrating with her this Sunday. They’ll be separated by the virus. By fear. By common sense.

But I bet there are plenty of creative ways to connect with her. Technology sure helps. At worst people can make coupons to send, dinner at a future date, for example, promises for time spent together when it’s safe again.

Flowers dropped off on the front porch would work too.

None of that will help my family have physical contact with our mom, as she went on ahead sixteen years ago. She’d be 91 now, and I have often wondered, during this pandemic, what she’d think about it all. I know we would have been scared for both of my folks, if they were still alive. I can feel the fear friends with elderly parents have, and I feel some guilty relief that I don’t have that worry.

And as I make weeks worth of meal plans and shop with my lengthy list these days, trying to limit my trips to the store, I remember my mother doing the same thing, for different reasons. It must have been hard feeding a family of six day after day. The endless scrimping and planning. Not wasting anything because there was never enough.

I know I have it much easier, though I sometimes feel the same way these days.

I don’t think we appreciated her for all the things she did for us, all the things she was for us, all those years ago. I wish she had lived longer because I think we were just beginning to realize what we owed her when she died.

Anyway…if you’re a techie and can figure out a way to get Zoom or some other app to connect to heaven…let me know.

I’d like to check in, express my appreciation, even if I can’t be with her, right now, to share a meal.


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What’s there to smile about?

I think we’re in week 5 of our stay-at-home executive order. Maybe it’s week 6. All the days run together into an endless week highlighted by a trip to the grocery store dolled up in mask and gloves. The order was set to expire at the end of April, but Friday the governor extended it until May 15th. I think that will make it 8 weeks total.

Isn’t this a beautiful barn?

But as she extended it she also loosened it a bit, allowing golf and boating, and letting people go to their up north cabins. Still no nonessential retail stores, though curbside delivery is OK, no sit down restaurants, no movie theaters, no dog groomers, no hair salons. But we can move around more as long as we continue to practice safe distancing.

This one is beautiful too, and there were a bunch of horses in the pasture next to it, but it was on a busy road and I took this through the windshield, no time to compose something better.

So I felt legit driving around in the country, by myself, looking for my favorite things – barns. Getting out and looking for interesting things to photograph isn’t exactly essential to most people. But it’s starting to feel that way to me.

All business on the front, derelict in the back.

I didn’t go far, just barely north and west, far enough to get out of town and into flat farmland, but not so far that I felt like I was taking advantage of any leniency in our guidelines. And not so far that I’d have to fill up at a gas station.

This one was cute.

The sky wasn’t very interesting, there was a storm headed our way and I had hoped for more, but at least it wasn’t raining. And since it was our first day of “freedom” the roads were busier than I’d hoped.

Old wagon compliments old barn.

It’s hard to get pictures of barns if there’s traffic. Finding a great barn that also has parking is nearly impossible. If I’m on empty dirt country roads I can just stop in the middle of the road and grab a shot. Not so easy to do on a paved busy road.

Almost interchangeable with the last one.

Still I got several interesting barns to add to my collection. And yea, I caught you smiling while you looked at these. Barns are almost guaranteed to produce smiles, unless you’re the one that has to muck out the stalls.

So I’ve been told.

I turned around to get this one, loved the patina on it.


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What season is it anyhow?

Mostly content to stay at home these past few weeks, I started to feel camera withdrawal yesterday. It was warmish out, bright blue sky, big puffy white clouds, the kind that would look lovely hanging above a red barn or two.

Ah, that’s the ticket. Puffy clouds in a pretty blue sky.

But, here in Michigan, we’re still under a stay-at-home order. We’re supposed to stay put unless we’re going to the grocery or the pharmacy. Darn. I don’t have any drugstore needs that are close to barns.

I think it’s still legal to go to a park and walk. But somehow that seemed like too much work and I stayed inside and painted little postcards instead. As I sat at home watching the sun set amid big puffy clouds, listening to the weather report I began to regret my decision.

Not much snow over winter, but plenty of rain this spring.

This morning, still in bed, but staring at the dark ceiling and listening to the wind tear by the house and the rain pound on the roof I figured I had lost my opportunity for a park walk. Just because the park didn’t have barns, I told myself, was no reason not to get off my behind and go see what there was to see.

I figured today wouldn’t be the day.

But by early afternoon I noticed blue sky and big white puffy clouds. Huh. So it was only 28 degrees (-2.22 C) and there was a stiff wind, so what, right? Blue skies and puffy white clouds called for a camera adventure.

So I bundled up and headed to a park only 6 miles from me that isn’t usually busy. Plus it has my favorite line of photogenic trees.

But 2 miles from the park I noticed ahead of me what looked like a dust storm. Maybe a farmer was plowing a field? No, of course not. This was not dust. It was snow!

Things did not look promising heading into the park.

The park I was going to visit, the one where I was going to walk nature trails to the top of a hill and photograph blue sky and puffy clouds, was in the middle of a snow squall!

I almost kept on driving, right past the entrance. But I figured I was out there, I could see what might be worth photographing, preferably from the car. And then I’d just go home where obviously I should have stayed in the first place.

I sprinted from the car to the shelter of the nature center to get my obligatory image of the line of trees I so enjoy.

I didn’t even realize the heron was flying and in the image until I looked at it later.

It was still snowing. A heron flew over my shoulder and landed on the opposite side of the pond. He kept moving away as I approached and of course I didn’t have my long lens on the camera.

Can you see him standing over there? Wrong lens on the camera, this is a cropped version, and he’s blending into the rushes at the edge of the water.

So I gave up on him and headed up the hill.

Why look! Is that blue sky I see?

And as I did the sky brightened and the blue sky returned along with beautiful clouds. Behind me the snow clouds were still producing, but on the nature trails the sun was shining.

Snow clouds are just over the ridge.

You never know what will happen if you just show up. Sometimes you have to make a decision which way you’ll go. But as long as you make the best decision you can, with the information you have, well, you’ll be just fine.

Either way will work out.

As soon as I was safe and warm back in the car it began to sleet.

The wind picked up and sleet pounded the windshield.

And on the drive home I saw more snow clouds coming from the west.

Spring in Michigan is a mixed bag. Every year.

Yep, I had a sliver of an opportunity to get out there and enjoy the sun. I’m sure glad I took it, even if it’s obviously not really spring around here yet.

Just that one fleeting moment of sunshine.

On the other hand, maybe it is.

Greening proof.


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The band of five bullies

Looking for a smile, I’ve been observing my birds as they go about their daily struggle to find food. Though it’s really not such a big struggle in my yard, the feeder is pretty well stocked most of the time.

Hurry up lady!

The struggle seems to be the hierarchy of who gets to eat first when fresh seed has been put out.

I’ll take my fair share now. And yours too.

The little birds, the goldfinches, now sporting their bright summer dinner attire, and the titmouse, the chickadees and the sparrows all sit up in the trees and sing their alerts when I’m out filling the feeder. The bravest among them will swoop down and grab something before I’ve even gone inside.

These two lovebirds weren’t interested in the feeder. They needed to get a room.

They have to hurry because shortly after I’m in the house the band of five arrives with intimidating calls and flashes of bright blue wings.

Alert! We have arrived, all move aside, we are hungry!

Yes, I have some bullies the control my bird feeder. There are usually five of them, and they take over daily. Today I attempted, from inside the house, to capture them in full drama mode.

I didn’t capture everything, and I was shooting through a dirty window in low light and should have done a couple things with the settings but there wasn’t time.

We do not wait in line!

And to be honest, in the thrill of the moment I forgot anyway.

I’ll try this again, maybe if I spend more time outside on the deck they’ll get used to me and I can eliminate the dirty window part of the whole adventure! Today it was too cold and windy. We got a snow squall just after I took these.

Incoming!

But, given the virus, I figure I’ll have a lot more days at home to try again.

Jays are not the only bullies.


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Remembering to breathe

I used the last onion 4 days ago, ate the last apple day before yesterday. We’d been out of bananas and garlic and salad fixings for a while. No fresh meat left in the fridge, we were reduced to eating packaged food out of the freezer last night.

Time to go to the grocery store.

Grocery shopping has never been my favorite thing to do, but on the list of household chores it used to be the least repugnant. Now it’s something out of a Twilight Zone episode.

Resenting having to be out so early, I turned into the store parking lot at 7:30 this morning, detailed list (organized into like store aisles for faster shopping), antiseptic wipes and mask piled next to me in the passenger seat.

Good. The parking lot was relatively empty.

I note two women going in, masks in place, hands covered in gloves, eyes covered in glasses. A man coming out is similarly dressed. I sigh and done my own attire.

Here’s something I’ve learned about myself: I feel claustrophobic wearing a nose and mouth mask. I start to breathe faster, my glasses fog up and then I feel like I can’t breathe. At home, practicing, I can only go a few minutes before I need to rip the mask off my face. Actually wearing one for an entire shopping expedition, especially since I’m trying to buy enough stuff for at least two weeks, will be an experiment.

I figure at worst I’ll run screaming out of the store, leaving my partially filled basket behind. I doubt I’d be the first.

Anyway.

The store wasn’t busy, everyone was going about their business, not looking at anyone else. I guess when you’re wearing a mask and glasses and gloves you’re somewhat anonymous. Apparently there’s no time for friendly when shopping these days. It’s all about survival now. In fact, as I looked down the aisles and noted that everyone there looked like a bank robber, I decided I didn’t feel very friendly either.

Fresh stuff is so welcome.

Shopping was a big adjustment for me. I hadn’t been out of the house in almost two weeks, except to walk the dog around the yard. To find myself in a store with a long and detailed list, surrounded by new signs including those designating one-way aisles was almost overwhelming.

I suddenly felt…well…elderly.

Wearing my glasses over the nose piece of the mask wasn’t comfortable, and they were no longer at the right distance from my eyes. Things were kind of blurry. Plus did I mention they fogged up if I breathed too fast? But not wearing them was worse because then everything was blurry, and I couldn’t even read my complicated list.

Time to just suck it up.

Grateful that I had segmented my list I moved as quickly as I could. I found most of what I needed, and I only had to circle around a few times when I encountered wrong way signs. Sometimes, to be honest, I ignored them.

There were fewer things out of stock than my last trip to the store, though there were still plenty of empty shelves. I didn’t go down the paper goods aisle, so I can’t tell you about the toilet paper inventory. I’ve heard there’s still a shortage.

In the end I forgot the eggplant (the produce was the most difficult for me because I was still adjusting to breathing and seeing at the same time), and I couldn’t find any baking soda or flour.

I’m chalking this trip up to a success.

Standing on the blue sign labeled “STAND HERE” at the checkout line I watched the man in front of me unload his overflowing cart. Mine looked the same, in fact it was so heavy it was hard to push. I looked like I was buying for a family of twelve.

A sea of groceries.

Two Hundred forty-eight dollars and eighteen cents later I escaped the store to the parking lot, ready to unload everything into the back of the car and get out of there. I took the mask off and breathed deep.

Everything is precious these days.

Twenty-eight degrees and sun felt wonderful.

I’ve never spent so much money at one time in the grocery store. Rarely in any other store for that matter! Lugging it into the kitchen was another adventure, but now it’s put away and I am safe, back in my cocoon of a home where I hope to stay for at least the next two weeks.

If this was a glimpse into our future I will be very sad. I hope someday to drop into the grocery store for a couple items like I once did. I look forward to smiling at other people, chatting over the produce, standing a bit to debate the merit of salmon over trout. I’d like the time to weigh the benefit of fresh versus frozen.

I dream of being able to go free-form and shop without a list.

But until then, I’ll shelter in place and reminisce about the good ole days when grocery shopping was just an inconvenience.

And when breathing was easier too.

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