Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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What is true

I know that science is true.
I know that Covid 19 is everywhere.
I know that washing hands and staying away from crowds will slow the spread.
I know that wearing masks when you do go out will protect others.

I know that spending extended months away from friends and family is hard.
I know we’re all experiencing Covid fatigue.
I know we’re feeling constrained, our personal rights being trampled.
I know we’re feeling sad and overwhelmed and frustrated and tired of it all.

And I know we want it to just go away like the President has promised it will.
But that’s not the truth.
We haven’t turned a corner, we aren’t out of the woods, it’s not going away.
There isn’t a magical cure available for anyone to use.

I know there is no end in sight, that the numbers of cases and deaths will continue to rise.
I know that unless people begin to care for each other and respect the science we are stuck with no hope but a vaccine that might come next year.
I know the vaccine, even when it’s ready, won’t be easy to administer to every American.
I know that some people won’t want to take a vaccine pushed through the approval process.

I know that 218,000 people have died of Covid related illness in the US alone.
I know that because one of those people was a family member of mine.
I know that hundreds of thousands of families are strugling with those deaths.
I know that spouses and children and grandchildren and friends are all experiencing deep grief.

And I know it didn’t have to be this way.
I know that I will always place blame on the leaders of our country for not putting together a national plan, for dismantling the process that was already in place, for lying and offering false hope.
I know that blaming doesn’t fix the problem and blaming doesn’t make the pain go away.
But I know that those 218,000 people who lost their lives deserve to be honored, and the countless hundreds of thousands of people left with dilbaitating illness after suffering the disease will need help.

I know that our country is up to the task.
I know that we can look beyond ourselves and do what has to be done.
I know that we can see family in zoom meetings, send virtual hugs for as long as it takes.
I know that we can wear the darn mask.

Because this is the America I know. The strong yet empathetic country that can accomplish anything.
The country I know can come back from the brink of destruction.
I know we can turn this around.
I know this is true.


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Anniversary smiles

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.

Lots of years ago, when we were much younger.

We got married in the town I grew up in, in the church we attended every Sunday when I was a kid, even though I hadn’t lived there for more then 15 years myself.

Who could have guessed all that was ahead of us when we took those vows and cut that cake. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to get through it all alone.

It wasn’t a very big wedding, but it must have been legit because we’re still married — thirty years later.

And that makes us smile.

My sister and me.


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Another Father’s Day

When your dad dies you’re in the moment of loss and you don’t really consider how permanent it is. But dead is forever and that’s a very long time.

In the beginning you get through each day, each moment really, one moment at a time and you try to accomplish all the things you have to do, from arranging a funeral to cancelling his next doctor appointment, and you don’t think about what it will be like sixteen Father’s Days later.

But I can tell you what it’s like. It’s like the first one, just a little softer around the edges. Less the slice of a knife, more the dull ache of a bruise.

Dad would have turned 91 last February. There’s no guarantee he’d still be alive today, but I know for certain that a sleepy truck driver took several years from him — and us — sixteen years ago when he failed to see dad stopped on the freeway ahead.

A young man with big dreams

I wonder if that driver ever thinks of dad. Or us. I think of him often; he’s a father too, and I am sure there will be some Father’s Day thing happening for him this weekend. I don’t begrudge him that. I just wish…I wish he had pulled over when he got sleepy that morning.

I know you all expected some sort of uplifting Father’s Day post, but that’s not where I am this year. Grief ebbs and flows, but the work remains.

In fact I’m working on some truck safety stuff over the weekend. In some ways that’s in honor of my dad. I guess, for me, just about every day is Father’s Day as we fight to improve safety on our roads. Can’t give up, though sometimes it feels futile.

I like to think of him up in heaven sitting with some of your folks who have gone on too, sitting around in easy chairs telling stories about all of us, sharing experiences. Smiling a lot. Don’t see why this isn’t possible, after all, most of us met over the internet, just as unlikely as our folks meeting in the afterlife, right?

Anyway, now I’m rambling. I hope those of you that still have your dad here get the chance to give him a hug or a call or a card. Sometimes dads get lost in our busy worlds, but time is not infinite. Don’t waste any of it.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. No matter where you are.

A new dad.


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I’m turning into an old fart

When my brothers and sister and I were growing up we pretty much ran around the neighborhood, the woods or spent our time out on the lake. But there was one place we didn’t run, and that was our next door neighbor’s yard. Though our neighbor had two kids of his own he wasn’t really kid friendly.

We weren’t allowed to walk across his yard to play with kids that lived on the other side of him. We weren’t allowed to skate on the part of our lake that was behind his house. We couldn’t even touch his grass in order to take his dog back home when it wandered over into our yard to visit our guinea pig. (Robbie the collie and Barney the guinea pig had a very strong friendship.)

That was all fifty years ago.

From our gardens.

This week I found, on our lawn next to our driveway, a large deposit from what must have been a very big dog. I was incensed. This is not the first time we’ve been the recipient of doggie gifts that are not Katie’s. I’ve ignored it when it’s at the further corners of our yard which is bordered on two sides by roads. But a month or so ago the deposit was left right next to our mailbox. And this week it was right next to our driveway.

It was sort of in my face, and I found myself turning into my childhood neighbor, but with no one around to yell at.

So I made a sign, and posted it right next to the offending pile. It said “Who left this? NOT OK! Pick up after your dog.”

The porch pots are vivid.

Of course no one admitted to being the offending human. I don’t blame the dog, though if it could read I’m sure it would take it’s business across the street to avoid me. I picked up the pile after a couple days, and put the sign away. I’m sure I’ll need it again.

But that incident alone didn’t make me think I was turning into an old fart. Oh no, there’s more.

Yesterday I was moving mulch from a very big pile which is sitting in the driveway, to a sweet little spot in our front yard under the trees, and nestled in among the hosta.

Gonna need a bigger wheelbarrow.

I could feel the drop in temperature every time I tipped a wheelbarrow of mulch onto the ground under the trees. A little microclimate exists there, so cool and green. I thought how nice it would be to have a chair there, a place to sit and watch the world go by on the street.

Which solidified the old fart notion.

Our elderly neighbors (defined elderly because they are older than me) used to sit in chairs in their garage and watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood. They have a lovely deck on the back of the house, looking into their pretty backyard edged in woods, but I don’t think they ever sat back there. No, they sit in their garage on sunny afternoons and watch the street, and us.

And now, here I am, thinking how nice it would be to sit in the front yard and watch the street.

Cool relief.

Yep I’m an old fart, not going to apologize. I figure I can sit under my tree in a comfy chair on my nice soft mulch and watch people walking their dogs down my street. And if they or their dogs get too close I’ll be able to tell them to get off my grass.

Somewhere in the cosmos I think my childhood neighbor would finally laugh.


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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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Be careful what you wish for

Many mornings, during the 30+ years that I worked, I used to wish as I pulled out of the driveway that I could stay home. The few precious days when I was home on a weekday I’d watch the treetops become lit with rosy morning light, watch rectangles of sun slide across my living room floor, and think, “this is what happens every day while I’m at work.”

And I’d feel melancholy.

I’ve been retired for 5 years next month. The time has flown by and I haven’t always noticed when the light touches a branch or the tip of Katie’s nose as she sleeps. I’ve traveled a lot and missed plenty of light movement here at home.

And now we’re under the stay at home order, and suddenly staying at home has lost it’s luster. Maybe it’s because we’ve had mostly grey sky and rainy days here in Michigan. Maybe there hasn’t been that much light to admire.

When it’s not raining it’s snowing.

But I think it’s more than that, this sad feeling I feel deep inside. Yes, I enjoy being home, and feel guilty that I do, but there’s an underlying anxiety that picks away at me.

I haven’t been able to read a book since this started, I don’t have enough focus. I have started my current book five times because I can’t remember what I read the day before. I don’t know that I’ll try again.

Music helps, but I can only listen to short pieces all the way through. I am grateful for all the inspirational and fun pieces of music wandering the internet these days, and I’ve passed several on, but still the anxiety persists.

I thought maybe I was alone in the struggle between sad and happy, but I’ve been reading more and more blogs and articles from people that have similar feelings. Happy one day, anxious the next, lack of focus or direction. No motivation.

Just knowing I’m not alone is helpful as I watch today’s snow fall. I know things will get better. And Katie says that I shouldn’t forget I’ve still got her.

Yea, you’ve got me, mama. But could you wait till I’m done with my nap? Maybe more toward supper time.

That, and the sun shining after the snowfall, should make me feel better.

How about you? Are you happy to be home, or struggling that you’re there?


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Should be celebrating

Me, my first spring with mama and daddy.

Katie here.

Do you know what today is? I bet most of my fans have it marked on their calendars. Even mama said she had a big party planned for me. Frankly I’m surprised there isn’t an outcry for a national holiday just to celebrate.

Today is my Gotcha Day!

Yes, 13 years ago today I came home with mama and daddy and changed their lives forever. I like to think they’re grateful for that.

And because they are grateful mama said she planned a big party with all my friends from all over the world and there was going to be cake and ice cream (my favorite is ice cream) and presents and lots of music and fun games and brand new squeaky toys for everyone!

But then this virus thing happened and now mama says we’re not going to do anything.

Watcha mean no party mama?

Nothing?

Not even a walk in my park? Or just a little ice cream? I mean, really mama? Nothing?

I think I should go on strike. I should withhold all my attention and love and stuff. Cause not celebrating me every opportunity you have is just wrong.

I’m taking my blankie and finding someone that appreciates me!

Don’t you agree?

I thought so.

Hmmmph.

Awwww, who can resist this face? My first nap at my new house.


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How to make a note a day

When all this virus stuff started making headlines I talked about using the time to connect with people in ways we haven’t in awhile. I remembered a challenge I once accepted to send a letter a day (or it might have been a letter a week) to someone, and how fun that had been.

And I vowed to do something similar during this crisis.

So I started the end of last week…scrounging through drawers looking for a card…finally finding one and sending it to a friend I haven’t seen in awhile who had surgery recently.

The next day I picked up a couple cards at the grocery store during my toilet paper run, and I’ve mailed those too. But I recognize that not only are buying enough cards to send one a day for the foreseeable future expensive, but I don’t really want to go out and buy anything during this stay at home order we’re living with here in Michigan.

So I took an idea from another friend’s blog, Far Side of Fifty. She makes cards all through the year. I’m sure people love to get them too!

I dug around in my basement bins for my old water color pallet and a pad of paper. I decided I didn’t want to mess around with trying to make a folded card, so I cut the paper into rectangles that will fit inside generic envelopes. Then I looked online to find “easy watercolor pictures’ and saved a bunch that I thought I could do.

And this morning I sat down and made three of them. I’ll write a note on the back, slip each into an envelope and mail them off, day by day.

It was fun to do them, and I hope they’ll be fun to receive. I don’t know how long I can keep this up…but I know I’m set for the next three days!

I hope you have found something fun to do with any spare time you’ve got. I recognize that not everyone has any time to spare during this crazy period. If you have kids at home, or are trying to work full time from home, or are taking care of friends and neighbors on top of your own worries, then you probably don’t have time to make cards and mail letters.

But maybe during an evening or two you can face-time a friend, or give a neighbor a call. I think you’ll be smiling as much as I am when you do.


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The written word

A runner friend of mine has an elderly friend who lives in an assisted living facility. She used to meet him regularly, not so long ago, for breakfast and conversation.

I went to a park one morning this week to see the sunrise.

Now she can’t do that and she’s worried about him being lonely during this scary time when he can’t get out and visit. So she posted a request on Facebook that some of her friends send him a note. And of course she has received many offers.

His mailbox should be overflowing any day now.

A lot of clouds and not much color, but still stunning.

But that, and other pieces I’ve seen on the news and online, has me thinking.

Some years ago one of you, I can’t remember who — maybe Robin or Katybeth or Kathy or Beth Ann — proposed we write letters to friends every day for a number of days, maybe 30, one letter to one friend each day.

Looking west, the hills waited to glow.

It was a way to reconnect or stay connected to people in our lives who maybe had drifted away. Maybe we were the one that drifted, maybe they were. Maybe it was a mutual drift.

Back in the east the sun was creeping up.

I remember that I wrote, some long letters, some just quick notes, for several days. I don’t know that I made it for thirty days, but it was a good long time.

Interesting things hugged my feet while my eyes were fixated on the sky.

I remember that I worried I might not have 30 friends to write. I was wrong. And I remember getting a few letters in return.

It was so good to be wandering in the hills at sunrise.

Do you remember the days of letters? The excitement of going to the mailbox hoping to see a handwritten envelope hiding among the bills and junk mail?

I do.

As the sun rose the grasses turned red.

When I was in college my mom wrote to me every week, and I loved seeing her handwriting on a postcard or envelop. When I worked at a job far from home she continued the practice, right up until emails took over, and then we stayed in touch more frequently but somehow less connected. As if emails were easier and commanded less respect.

Not to say I wouldn’t love to get an email from her now you understand. But there’s something special about old fashioned snail mail, as she called the kind of connection that comes with a stamp.

A place to sit and breath.

So I’d like to propose that during these times of social distancing we stay connected and perhaps accept the challenge of dropping a note in the mail every day for a month. Imagine the surprise. The smiles.

Time to reflect on the new day.

Maybe start with a friend you might have who is isolated now, maybe elderly, maybe with a compromised immune system, maybe just overwhelmed with kids home from school.

My favorite row of trees.

And if you’re not into paper and pen and stamps….well…an email a day to someone you can’t hang out with in person right now will work just fine too.

Deep breath. We can do this.

Stay home if you can. Stay home even if it’s inconvenient. Stay home even if you’ve run out of your favorite coffee or bananas. Stay home and stay safe.

We are strong.


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Speaking up for safety

What would you do if someone called you on a Thursday and asked you to testify before a Senate subcommittee the next Tuesday? What if it was about something important, something close to your heart? What if the things that needed to be said wouldn’t be heard unless you went?

These people, and thousands more like them, are important.

Then of course you’d gather up your courage and go! So I did,

Time to go to work.

Yesterday, coincidentally on my dad’s 91st birthday, I testified before the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety about the State of Trucking. I wasn’t alone, there was also representation from the American Trucking Association, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The other guys. And me.

If you’ve ever watched a Senate hearing on TV you’ll know what it was like.

The Senators all sit elevated with big chairs. The witnesses sit together at a long table down below in front of microphones that have little clocks in them to time how long you’re speaking. And you have to remember to turn your microphone on before you begin. And especially to turn it off after you’re finished with what you want them to hear.

They ask questions from an elevated advantage.

It was an honor to be asked, but of course I was nervous. Still, the Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition wrote the first draft of my comments, and I edited it using words that I could get my mouth around. Then another board member helped me shave the speech down to five minutes and punch it up to gain attention.

The Hart Senate Office Building, where the hearing took place.

I practiced saying it out loud for hours on Monday, in front of my husband, the Executive Director and the board member. That helped a lot. And of course early Tuesday morning, while my husband was in the shower I spoke it aloud a couple times too.

A true statement.

Tuesday we arrived at the Senate Office Building early, to meet with one of my Senators who was going to introduce me at the hearing. Senator Peters is very supportive of safety technology and spoke eloquently about my work. I was the only witness to get an introduction like that and I appreciate him so much.

Meeting with Senator Peters before the hearing.

I got to speak first at the hearing, which was helpful, not to have to wait and listen to the other four speak. Though maybe I would have adjusted my talk to object to some of what they said if I had heard them first. But I doubt it. My oral testimony already countered most items they were asking for.

I think I was disagreeing with something.

Turns out teen drivers and allowing cattle haulers exemptions from the hours of service rules were the big topics, and of course I oppose both of those. But the Senators that agree with these ideas didn’t really want to hear opposition, so only one question was directed at me, and I was hard pressed to get any other thoughts in without them throwing me a question.

Sometimes it’s hard to get people to focus on what’s important.

A hearing is not a debate, you’re not allowed to interrupt other speakers, though one Senator, thankfully, did ask, at the end of her questioning if any of us had anything else to add, and of course I did. And toward the end I did just butt in on the last Senator and make a point disagreeing with the ATA representative about teen drivers, and thankfully was then backed up by the Independent Operators representative because they don’t want teen drivers either.

And that’s how the hearing ended, so I guess we got the last word, at least on one topic.

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to speak up for safety. I wasn’t heard on as many topics as I was prepared for because many Senators on our side of safety didn’t bother to attend. And that’s a shame. There can’t be a complete discussion unless both sides come to the table. I may not be speaking at the next hearing, but I’ll be on the phone urging the subcommittee members to show up that’s for sure.

In order to make meaningful change everybody has to work together.

And that’s the lesson I leave you with. If you care deeply about a topic, any topic, and you have an opportunity to share that passion, don’t be afraid. Do the thing that scares you, make sure you’re heard.

Change is hard, sometimes it’s scary, but it’s always worth the effort.

I got lots of support from my husband too.