Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Washington recap

Some of you have been wondering exactly what we do when we go to DC to work on truck safety issues. And now that I’ve brought that up I suppose there are some of you newbies to the blog that wonder what truck safety issues I’m talking about. So here’s the short version of the story.

We had dinner along the river at sunset our last night in DC.

My dad was killed almost fourteen years ago by a tired trucker. He was stopped in traffic on a freeway in Georgia, headed to the Atlanta airport, when a semitruck, being driven by a relatively new driver hit him from behind going 65 miles per hour. He died, they say, instantly.

The driver said he had fallen asleep.

The driver was over the number of hours he should have been driving, had been driving all night. The crash happened around 6 in the morning on a straight piece of highway. Police, ambulances and firetrucks were already there, working on a previous crash. Everyone had slowed down and stopped as they worked their way around the existing crash.

The semi driver didn’t see any of that.

After dinner we went for a walk.

Once we got over our initial shock and began to learn the truth we found that the problem was much bigger than just our crash. In the fourteen years since I’ve met dozens of people who have either survived such a crash, being hit from behind by a truck driven by tired or distracted drivers, or have lost loved ones in crashes that sound exactly like my dad’s.

And that’s why I go to Washington regularly.

We talk to the staff of Representatives and Senators. We ask for legislation to fix some of the loopholes. We ask for support of legislation that is already pending that will make the roads safer for all of us in passenger cars and for the drivers of big trucks too.

A new building, made of green glass. I thought it was stunning.

We talk to agencies in the Department of Transportation; to staff and management of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to the people at the National Transportation Safety Board, to different departments within the DOT, all of whom are responsible for different aspects of road and vehicle safety.

Sometimes we talk to truck manufacturers and trailer manufacturers. Some of them are moving forward with safety technology even though the government is all wrapped up in studying stuff and not willing to mandate safety.

We spent a long time watching this fountain as it changed colors.

This past week we had a meeting with the FMCSA Administrator. He is new this year and is facing an uphill battle to get much of anything done. What else is new in Washington, right? He said a lot of the right things, but the reality is that very little will change.

Maybe nothing will change.

I’m not sure they’re even studying much of anything now. I looked at those (mostly) men, sitting in their expensive suites and wondered how much money they made to get absolutely nothing done. They talked a lot about what they were doing and why things were hung up.

We talked a lot about how frustrating it is to work on issues for decades without seeing movement. They mostly didn’t look us in the eyes.

There were lots of pretty lights.

And while we were there we met with a few Senators and Representatives’ staffs. They aren’t doing much either, but they listened politely.

Studying our notes before meeting with Minority Leader Pelosi’s staff.

It’s not enough. I’m tired of getting symbolically patted on the head and told they’re sorry for my loss. I’m way beyond needing to make them cry. Unless it’s to cry when their boss loses their next election.

Time to vote people. Vote your heart. Vote for people who might be willing to work on the hard issues, and maybe even be willing to work with people from other political leanings.

This bridge was beautiful too in a sort of patriotic way.

It’s the only way we’re going to start making a difference.

While we were in the FMCSA meeting on Wednesday the 2017 truck related deaths and injury numbers came out. Four thousand seven hundred and sixty-one people died. That’s up 9% from 2016.

That’s staggering. And it’s why I continue to go to DC.

So now you’re up to date. Pictures were taken on our last evening in the city, using my cell phone. Not quality pics, but they do give you a glimpse of the pretty side to the city.

Working hard to save lives.


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Happy Birthday Aunt Vi!

Today is Aunt Vi’s 103rd birthday.

At age 95.

It’s her first up in heaven with all her sisters and most of her brothers, plus her mom and dad who she talked about regularly and missed every day.

96th birthday

I’ve heard about some of the parties the family had when they were all younger. I can almost imagine the fun they’re having up there today, dancing and hugging, playing cards and softball and telling stories while they enjoy a huge potluck.

On her 100th birthday.

I’m sure everyone there is glad to have her back in the fold, but we sort of miss her back here.

101st birthday.

Still, I know her 103rd birthday is infinitely better than her 102nd was.

102nd birthday.

Happy Birthday Aunt Vi, now you’re young again and will be forever.

The light shines on her now.


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Now she’s done it.

Katie here.

Well, mama’s gone and done it this time. She’s getting forgetful and she spends a lot of time looking for stuff. Like her keys and her glasses and her book. But now I think she’s slipped over the edge into something more ominous.

Aren’t these reed things cool?

This time she’s misplaced daddy.

I’ve looked and looked and I can’t find him anywhere! I’m worried that I’ll never see him again! Other times, when mama and I are off on adventures I know that daddy is home safe and sound. Eventually we go back and there he is and I get all wiggle-butt and happy and stuff.

Which is prettier mama? The asters or me?

But now we’re already at home and I can’t find my daddy.

Mama says it’s OK, she talks to him all the time and he’s just down south helping my uncle work on a project. But that doesn’t make any sense to me. Usually if my people are down south we’re all down there together. And here mama and I are up in Michigan. So I don’t know if I believe her.

Sometimes when I come in from a walk in the park I run in the house and down the hall just to say hi to my daddy and when he’s not there I get all disappointed. Mama tries to distract me with talk about supper and stuff, but I know the truth.

Hey mama! I’m sticking to you like glue!

My daddy is lost.

So I’m putting out the word. If you find him, please send him home to me and mama, OK? Meanwhile I’m sucking up to mama. I’ve lost one parent, I’m not letting the other one out of my sight! And she’s sucking up to me too. The images in this blog post are from a lovely walk we had in one of my parks yesterday.

Today I’m campaigning for another walk at a different park. I have to keep track of so much, my parks and my parents! It’s exhausting for a little sheltie-girl.

I think I’ll go take a nap. Got to be rested up when daddy comes home!

ZZZZZZZZZ….


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Grief gets all mixed together.

Today, in fact this entire week, has been filled with sad images on television.

Here in Detroit it’s been a week of celebrating the life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, who died two weeks ago. There’s been days of public viewing, with lines of people stretching for blocks, all waiting in heat indexes over 100 degrees to pay their respect. Her funeral is tomorrow. Local news stations seem to broadcast little else.

And Senator John McCain died last Saturday and the national news has been filed with his story, work and funeral arrangements. I watched his Arizona funeral today. One of the television pundits commented, as we watched the family file in, that she couldn’t imagine how his seven children were feeling at the loss of their father.

I silently noted that she must not have lost a parent yet. Because if she had she’d know how easy it is to imagine how they feel.

“You didn’t have your dad as long as you’d like, but you got everything you need from him.”*

Watching them during the service, and especially as they followed the casket back out after I was right back at my mother’s funeral, and at my dad’s a few months later.

I know the feeling of standing, knees weak, at the pulpit and staring out over a standing-room-only crowd wondering if I could get the words out. I remember how it felt to smile after, shaking hands, accepting hugs, while all the time feeling totally numb.

“This I promise you – you know you’re going to make it when one day you see an image of your dad and a smile touches your lips before a tear fills your eye.”*

I know the feeling of disbelief. I know that it feels like you’re walking through mud, how the days each last an eternity, yet fly by too quickly. How that final goodbye shreds your insides.

And then this afternoon, on a highway out in New Mexico, a semi truck had a tire malfunction and crossed the median, striking a Greyhound bus head on. There are multiple deaths. Even more injuries. Families are even now receiving that phone call.

The cycle of loss never ends.

Today I seem to be enveloped in grief. Old grief for my family, new grief at recent national losses. Stabbing grief at the knowledge that more families are, tonight, beginning their own personal trek through darkness.

But I know what Joe Biden knows. That tomorrow will be a new day and the sun will shine again. And those of us that feel the pain this deeply are the lucky ones. Because we knew true love.

And true love never dies.

*Quotes above are paraphrased from Vice President Biden’s eulogy for John McCain today. They touched something inside of me, because he was exactly right.


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The farm connection

The perfect campsite; shade but no mud!


Saturday, August 11 was supposed to be a perfect night to view the annual Perseid meteor shower. I debated where to go to watch the sky light up, while also being close enough to Ann Arbor, a city about an hour south of me, to attend a production of West Side Story with my aunt and out-of-town cousins.

But what was the perfect location?

Why, the farm where my mom grew up; the place I, as a kid, hung out in barns playing with the farm cats, or pretended to drive a tractor down the lane, while sitting on my uncle’s lap.

The backs of some of the barns, across a soybean field.

I have so many special memories of the farm and my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, my cousins.

Morning sun makes the barns glow.

So I was grateful to get permission to camp Saturday and Sunday nights near the back of the farm, in what used to be the orchard. Today it’s a beautiful mowed area with a mulberry tree, beautiful oak trees and a couple of very old pear trees, heavy with fruit. The whole area is surrounded by soybean fields, giving me long vistas to watch the sky.

Morning light on a misty soybean field.

If only the sky would cooperate. I had high hopes as I watched the sun set behind a neighboring barn.

Sunset on the first evening.

Saturday night I saw one meteor, just as I stuck my head out of the tent about 11:00 p.m. I set up the camera and messed with the settings for a bit.

There were more planes than meteors . There are two planes in this shot.

Behind me I could hear thunder. Above me the sky was rapidly becoming cloud covered, the weather front directly overhead.

Clouds begin to encroach on my night.

I ducked back into the tent moments before the first rain hit, and then listened as the storm wound up to pouring rain and gusty winds. At one point I considered running for the car, but figured I’d get soaked just getting out of the tent.

The storm pushed away around 1:30 in the morning and I settled in to sleep. No more sky watching for the rest of that night.

Sunday morning was damp with fog. Everything was dripping but the sunrise was pretty.

Sunrise, spectacular in a quiet sort of way.

I spent the day with visiting cousins, catching up, enjoying meals, and the production of West Side Story.

A pretty nice set for the story of the Jets and the Sharks.

By early evening I was heading back to my camp hoping for a re-do of the night before. It turns out they had rain while I was gone, and steam was rising up from the ground while water dripped from the trees. A little after 9 p.m. I could see ground fog coming my way across the soybean fields. Soon my entire campsite was surrounded in white mist.

Still, the sky seemed clear.

I tried again, but the fog and lights from the city made most of the stars disappear. Mostly what was visible was a planet to the south. So I worked with that for a little bit and then tucked myself into my tent and slept the rest of the night listening to the night noises.

See that planet up there above the tent? There’s a star or two too.

Monday morning arrived dripping wet. I wandered down the lane toward the barns I remember so well. It was early and I didn’t want to disturb the tenants living in the old farmhouse.

Lots of roof lines.

I quietly walked through the wet grass remembering playing in the corn crib, remembering the pigs streaming out of the barn doors, remembering where there once was a watering trough, a fence. A gate.

Ingenuity.

So many memories.

No I didn’t see a lot of meteors shooting across the sky, just three total over the two nights. But that’s alright. As I packed up the soggy tent and headed home, I was grateful for the connection to my mom on her birthday, and grateful for two nights on the farm.

A good couple of nights on the farm.

A big thanks to my cousin for graciously allowing me to camp in the old orchard of the farm he now owns. Thanks to him, too, for keeping the farm in the family and preserving so many memories for all of us.

The whole experience was priceless.

An original fence post.


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What does 90 look like?

Last Tuesday, on our way out of our polling place, I noticed a small woman walking away. Short grey hair, slightly stooped, stripped pullover shirt. I smiled and told my husband she reminded me of my mom.

Mom wore a lot of shirts with stripes.

Today, August 11th, is mom’s birthday. I think about her a lot and sometimes wonder what she’d be like now. But I haven’t done the math in a long time. I never really know how old she’d be, just that she’d be older now than she was when I last saw her at age 75.

Today I did the math.

She would have turned 90 today. Ninety. That actually gave me a physical jolt. It seems like a huge and impossible number for her, such an old age. I guess it is.

Being a mom.

I have no idea what she’d be like at 90. I’ve seen other people reach that age. My uncle, my husband’s aunt, an elderly friend. But none of that applies to my mom.

Ninety.

Unfathomable.

I suppose it’s beyond my imagination to see her much differently than the way she was in July of 2004. Which seems like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time.

She loved her birds.

So I’ll shake off the sadness and remember the fun times and wish her a very very happy 90th birthday up there in heaven. I hope she didn’t have to make her own birthday cake. I’m sure they have angels up there for that.

Happy birthday mom. You look marvelous.

On their 50th wedding anniversary. I know they’re celebrating mom’s birthday together today.


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Grocery store flashback

Time out for lunch memories.

In the grocery store this morning I rounded a corner, not paying much attention to what was in front of me, concentrating on my list of must haves and the fact that while I was in Alabama they rearranged the entire store.

I was having trouble finding anything.

And suddenly there, right there on a table that I almost ran into, was a lunch box display. Cute little boxes and bags, a reminder to kids everywhere that school was starting soon.

Instantly I could smell the wax paper holding my cheese and olive sandwich, could see the little bag containing a few cheese crackers, or maybe a cookie, the apple or banana, could remember the way I always wished my carton of milk was chocolate instead of the white we always had to get. Immediately I was in grade school again, though today’s lunch boxes don’t look anything like the red plaid tin box I carried for years.

I stopped for a moment and let those memories wash over me. I smiled as I tucked that little red plaid lunch box back into my memory. Funny what catches you by surprise and transports you into the worry-free world of a nine year old.

And then I moved on, my cart with the wiggly wheel rattling as I squeaked my way down the next aisle, my thoughts moving on too. What to make for dinner, I wondered, what to make this evening and tomorrow and the day after that?

Cheese and olive sandwiches come to mind.


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The cricket in the drain

Saturday a bit of a pain in my back became worse and associated pains in my chest began to bother me. I couldn’t assume any longer that picking up the dog was the problem, so I headed for a local emergency room.

I didn’t really think it was much of anything, figured they’d run some tests, tell me it wasn’t a heart attack, that perhaps I had strained something. I thought they’d send me on my way after a few hours.

Instead they admitted me for observation.

The view wasn’t stellar.

Far from home and my own doctor, in a town near our lake house and with no family nearby, I began to stress. Katie was home alone and I was stuck in an ER, about to be wheeled upstairs to a hospital.

I called one of my neighbors who sprang into action, checking on Katie and arranging for her to have a sleep over with them and their dog Dixey. Katie enjoyed her sleep away from home with one of her best doggy friends.

Mama, on the other hand, got no sleep at all.

I’d had an EKG, a chest xray and blood drawn down in Emergency. They did more blood drawing upstairs, hooked me up to a heart monitor and left me alone for awhile with instructions not to get out of bed.

Eventually a doctor showed up and asked all the same questions they’d asked downstairs, but in more detail. She asked how my parents had died and I explained about my mom. She asked about dad and I told her the short version of dad’s truck crash death. She got quiet.

Then she said 4 years ago her daughter and her ex-husband and his girlfriend were in a bad crash. The girlfriend died, and her daughter sustained a traumatic brain injury. She showed me her 10 year old daughter’s picture, attached to the back of her hospital ID. We talked about the long road ahead of a brain injury patient. We looked each other in the eyes as we both spoke of our fear of being on the road these days. Then she said – “Do you hear that cricket?” I did. She investigated my bathroom, and said she thought it was in the shower drain. I said there could be worse things in a shower drain and we laughed and she left.

Around 10:30 I asked if the big light above my head could be turned off so that I could get some sleep. An aide came and turned off the light and I tried to settle down. Minutes later a LP showed up to take my vitals. Blood pressure, temp, heart rate. Did I need anything? No…just some sleep. She asked if I wanted her to take away the dinner tray which contained a pile of unknown shredded meat and a completely round scoop of white supposed to be mashed potatoes.

No thank you.

I said please do, adding that I ate the carrots. She said she’d note that and added that when she gave birth to her daughter at this hospital the food was so terrible that her mother-in-law brought her three meals a day from outside. We laughed

Someone came in for more blood. She said she was called the vampire ad said I had nice veins. We laughed. Then she asked if I had a cricket in the room? I said yes, she was keeping me company.

Sleep was elusive as I worried what all this meant.

Just after midnight the RN came in to check on me. We talked about shelties, her mom used to raise them. We talked about how smart they were. I said I was looking forward to sleeping past 4 a.m. because my sheltie was having a sleepover at the neighbors.

Twenty minutes later someone was in to do vitals again. My back continued to ache, the chest too. I couldn’t get comfortable in the narrow bed, wired to the heart monitor. I was worried about my dog. Feeling lonely.

I listened to the cricket singing in the bathroom and wished I was back at the lake.

12:30 a.m., maybe 1, a young man showed up for yet more blood. He turned on the bright light, but that was OK, I was still awake. He asked if I was from Alex City, I said no, I was from Michigan. He said, “Oh, you’re my mom’s age so I thought maybe you knew her.” He couldn’t get any blood the first two times he tried….he apologized for the bruise I was going to have. Then he tried my hand and got barely enough. I said that was the third blood draw, and I’d been told there would be three as they tested for enzymes indicating a heart attack. He said he was sorry, but he’d be back for more around 3:30 or 4.

Great.

I settled back to try to sleep. The cricket continued to sing. The RN came in to see how I was. Not so good. She went and got a nitro patch for my chest pain. A side effect, she said, was headache. Twenty minutes later my head was throbbing so bad that it hurt to touch the pillow.

I rang the bell for help.

The RN returned, listened to my complaint and said she’d see if she could give me a Tylenol for the headache. The night shift doctor showed up and asked me more questions, then prescribed an extra strength ibuprofen to be administered through my IV. The RN brought that in about 2 a.m.

Heaven.

I curled up and fell into a deep sleep which lasted until almost 3:30. I was so disappointed when I woke, the sleep had been so warm and good. I tried to will myself back to sleep. But the blood guy was taping on my door. So I gave him more blood and we discussed why they needed so much, and why there was a cricket singing in my bathroom. I said the cricket was now my friend, and we laughed. Ten minutes later he was done and I curled back up again, attempting sleep.

It wasn’t two more minutes when someone else was knocking on the door and wheeling in another cart. She was a perky lady, dressed in pink who sing-songed her “Good Morning!” brightly to me. I grunted and glared at her. She was here to do another EKG; this one would be my ticket out of the hospital if it was good, so I didn’t want to be rude and send her away. But seriously? Who thinks that 3:45 a.m. is a good time to do an EKG? She said she had 5 of them to do that morning and I was the first one.

Lucky me.

I asked her if she tag-teamed the blood guy and knew that I was already awake, and she said, “Oh no dear, I have to cover this whole hospital, I can’t be following him around.” And then she said “Hey…do you hear a cricket?”

Once she had her test done and had merrily danced away the young woman doing vitals, who hated the hospital food, arrived to take my blood pressure and temp again. Now near the end of her shift she was much less talkative, but she did mention that she heard a cricket.

Later the RN checked in on me asking how I was feeling. I said the back and chest pain were gone and the headache had been reduced to a more manageable pain. Mostly due to lack of sleep. She said she’d leave me alone. It was almost 5:00. Light was beginning to seep through the fog outside my window.

I gave up and turned on the TV to watch the news.

Looks like a good day to get some answers.

My friend the cricket wasn’t singing anymore. I guess her work keeping me company was done and she was settling in to get a good day’s sleep. I wished her well. Because I now knew something she probably already knew. There’s no sleeping if you’re spending the night at a hospital.

And what caused all that pain? We don’t know. I didn’t have a heart attack, but there are many questions left unanswered. There are probably questions I don’t even know to ask yet. But I will. I’m headed north to see my doctor, and I’m packing all those test results with me.

I hate leaving the lake, but it will be here for me when I return. And I’m grateful to wonderful neighbors on both sides of us that took care of me and my dog when I needed help. That’s the South for you. Even in the hospital people shared their lives and laughed with me. Every one of them cared about me and each was concerned that I was away from home.

I appreciate them all. Especially my best friend the singing cricket in the drain. I hope she’s comforting whoever is in that room tonight.

I bet she is.

I’ll be back.


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Ever wonder what there is to do at the lake?

Yes it’s peaceful here on the lake. You might even say it’s tranquil. Nothing to do but watch the weather move overhead.

A summer storm blows through almost every afternoon.

Perhaps take a morning paddle.

Headed out to the mountains.

Maybe toward evening take the ski boat out to the big waters to see the sunset.

This particular evening there were many facets of a single setting sun.

If you go way out there you need to sit awhile and soak it all in.

The other side of the lake had less color but just as much drama.

But mostly you putter around close to the house, perhaps exploring just up the creek in the canoe.

Let’s go see what’s over there.

And sometimes, if all your siblings and their significant others show up at the same time…well…you just need to goof off.

Having fun on the lake one warm evening.

No matter what advanced age you achieve…when you’re all together you can still be kids.

One…two…three…JUMP!

And that’s what I’ve been up to this week after the 4th of July. Katie and I will be heading north soon. She says she likes the lake house and wouldn’t mind staying here the rest of the summer. But I remind her that we have camping (and weeding) to do and so she says she’s OK with going home too. As long as the northern house has an air conditioning vent for her to sleep on she’s not so particular.

Stay tuned as our adventure continues.

One of my favorite spots.