Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


28 Comments

Thankful

One of my brothers flew into town last Wednesday, and on this last night of our Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for all the family time I’ve had these past five days.

Thanksgiving yummy food and big smiles.

My husband, brother and I spent Thursday with my dad’s sister, my aunt, talking about people from generations before, and eating traditional Thanksgiving fare.

The rest of the weekend we hung out around home, watching the nature in my backyard…

Hey! Are you guys going to share any holiday treats with me?

…and today I took him out to Kensington to experience the bird in the hand phenomenon.

Artsy-fartsy bird in the hand image.

All of it was so much fun.

I’ve got my eye on a treat!

He goes home tomorrow, his own dog is anxiously waiting for him, but Katie sure loved having another admirer in the house. We played together in the new snow a couple of times, and she was all smiles.

Uncle Paul took this picture of me. He didn’t know about my treat policy, but I let him off with a warning.

I’m not looking forward to telling her that her new loyal subject won’t be around to wait on her after tomorrow.

I think I’m late leaving for a warmer climate. Maybe I’ll hitch a ride with that Paul guy.

She and I are both going to miss him.

See ya later, Uncle Paul! Come back any time!


13 Comments

Plastic wrap flashback

Today I’ve been busy cleaning the house and cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow. It’s one of the days I’m glad Katie gets me up early, I have so much to do. Katie, on the other hand, is less than happy, following me around from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchen and back again as I alternate cleaning with putting something on the stove or in the oven or downstairs in the spare fridge.

Up and down, back and forth. She didn’t even bark at her personal nemesis the vacuum cleaner. By the time I got to that she was all but exhausted. Me too.

But there was one moment this morning when I was suddenly transported back to Thanksgiving 2004, and I had to stop and catch my breath. And then grin sadly.

You see, in the summer of 2004 my mom died suddenly, and by Thanksgiving of that year the entire family recognized that we couldn’t take family for granted. And so both sides of my family, people on my mom’s side, and people on my dad’s, from all over the country, were arriving for Thanksgiving dinner, to be eaten on Friday, at my house.

Dad and my siblings got there a day or so early and were helping me prepare. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of plastic wrap. It’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without plastic wrap. So even though it was Thanksgiving morning, a time I would generally avoid going to the store, my dad volunteered to run out and pick some up for me. And of course all he and one of my brothers could find was some funky colored sticky plastic wrap which I used that day but never used again. In fact I think I still have that roll at the back of the pantry.

Today I was making vegetable lasagna for dinner tonight and needed to cover the pan with foil before it went into the oven. I had a new roll of it waiting in the drawer. But darn it all, Kroger, do you have to glue the edge down so that I can’t get it started? Does everyone have to yank the foil including the cardboard core out of the box and use scissors in order to get a piece of foil? I should just go buy another brand.

And then I envisioned going to the store the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The chaos that would be there. Just for some tinfoil. Even though I know for a fact that it’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without tinfoil, I wasn’t going to head to the store for anything. And then I remembered sending dad out into the craziness for plastic wrap.

And I stopped tugging the tinfoil and I took a deep breath and I smiled.

Memories on this Thanksgiving about Thanksgivings long past. I guess that’s what the holidays are supposed to be about. And I should probably just stop worrying about all that food. It will get done or it won’t, Thanksgiving will be here either way, and I’m grateful to be spending it with some of my family this year.

I hope you are all in a happy place as well. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

At my wedding, 1990.


11 Comments

Remembering covid victims

A friend alerted us to a project happening now in Washington DC, where thousands of white flags are being planted near the Washington Monument, one flag for each victim of covid.

Getty image, found on NPR website

The installation will be there only until October 3rd, so we won’t get to see it in person, but you can see pictures at the project website.

You can also submit information for your loved one lost to covid at that site, through September 30th, so that they can be part of this event. We have submitted information about my brother-in-law, Denny Morgan.

It’s a beautiful way to keep their memories alive for all of us.

I encourage you to visit the physical site if you’re in the DC area, or online if you can’t get there. There are more images on the NPR site.

Denny

Edit: Go to the project website above, and scroll down to the Covid Lost Loved Ones map. You can click on any of the hearts on the map and see the story of the individual. Click on a few. You will see how this virus doesn’t discriminate. The loss is heartbreaking.


29 Comments

Joyous Lilacs

I’ve seen pictures of the Pt. Betsie lighthouse in lilac season. I’ve been covetous of those images because I’ve never seen it myself, never timed a visit to the lighthouse, one of my favorite places in this state, at exactly the right time.

I always get a happy feeling, deep down inside, at the first sight of the Pt. Betsie beach.

Yesterday, on my way home from a 3 night camping trip near the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I finally got to check that as done.

I mean…how can it get better?

The lilacs were at their peak, the sky was cerulean blue with a few wispy white clouds, we were the only ones there.

Perfection.

The view the other way was pretty striking too.

I have many reason to love this lighthouse, one being it’s where my parents visited during their honeymoon in 1953, and where they went for their 50th wedding anniversary a year before they died.

Gentle waves lapped at the base of the lighthouse.

I like to sit and think about them there, and I hope they were close when I squealed at my first sight of the purple blooms against the white of the lighthouse.

The iconic image. Even though I have hundreds of these I can’t resist this angle every single time I visit.

I imagine they were, possibly, even squealing along.


32 Comments

Reunion in the woods

After more than a year of near isolation, this week I was finally able to travel to Ann Arbor to visit my Aunt. We used to get together regularly, to attend concerts and theater, to walk in gardens or around her neighborhood. But since February of 2020 we’ve only connected on the phone.

Backlit may apple blossom hiding under the leaves.

But we’re both fully vacinated and when the CDC lifted some restrictions we both felt comfortable meeting for a walk through the woods.

I’m not sure what this plant is. It was tall, with small leaves on the flower stem, but larger leaves at the ground.

She said she’s been walking at a metropark and that the dogwood was gorgeous this year. I hadn’t noticed dogwood in my woods yet so I was excited to see it for myself.

The yellow flowers were beautiful around this bench.

It was a Monday, when most people were working, so we had the woods to ourselves. The sun was shining, and it was warm enough to take off the sweatshirt early in our walk.

Happy little violets were tucked away everywhere.

We had such a lovely time, chatting and bringing each other up to date on things we’d been doing during the pandemic year.

Little vignettes like this were easy to find.

The woods glowed for us, with trillium….

Not the sweeping waves of trillium of last week, but elegant in it’s own way.

…and wild geranium….

Such a simple shape, but so pretty.

…and even several jack in the pulpit plants!

A clump of 4, two facing each way.

But it was the dogwood that stole the show. It was everywhere toward the end of our walk. I loved the shapes…

A hint of color, but a distinctive shape in silhouette.

I loved the color.

I loved the optimism that dogwood provides, proof summer is on the way.

Dogwood lined the bike path.

Everything in the woods that day made me smile, but what made me smile the most was finally spending time with my Aunt. That’s priceless.

Into the woods.


16 Comments

Truck rant

(This was written in January 2012. It was sitting in my draft folder, never posted, probably because I was afraid of offending someone. Now, nine years later, the same issues are still being studied by the DOT. Other than mandating unboard recorders nothing has been accomplished there.)

Warning – this is probably not going to be politically correct.  And I remind myself that what’s put out on the internet stays on the internet.  Good or bad.  But I’m working on truck safety stuff again, which makes me relive some of the initial moments and days after Dad’s crash.  And some things just need to be said.  Out loud.  Emphatically.

I’m heading to Washington again, for more meetings with the DOT; Secretary LaHood, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro and then members of Congress, to talk about things that can be done to improve safety.  Sometimes it all feels pointlessly repetitive, like we’re just wasting time, ours and theirs.

But then I remember.

I remember getting the call at work.  I remember signing papers to have Dad cremated and faxing them to the funeral home from a retail UPS store the night before Christmas Eve. I remember suffering through the holiday cheer of the employees as I waited for my confirmation while trying not to cry.  I remember sitting in my brother’s Alabama living room the night of Christmas Eve listening to the county coroner explain what happened.  I remember not understanding.

And this is what I can tell you now that I know more, understand more.

I know that though Dad was the kind of guy that would fix things and make them better, dead is forever and dead can’t be fixed.  And as much as I want to I can never make my family whole.  I told my sister, a couple of years into this journey, that if we could save one life through our efforts with the Truck Safety Coalition we’d be even.  She said “No we won’t.”  And she’s right.  We will never be even, not ever again.

So we can’t fix the fact that Dad is dead.  But we can fix fatigued driving.  And though common sense says that the easiest way to fix fatigued driving is to lower the number of hours a person can consecutively drive, well, maybe I’m just a naive civilian.

I received an emailed response from Administrator Ferro to my own emotional email expressing my displeasure with the new Hours of Service rule.  She says, and rightly so, that reducing truck crashes will take a complicated combination of rules, a push toward safety from many fronts –  and that reducing the number of allowed hours would continue to be studied.  She assures me a reduction in consecutive hours of driving could still be on the table.  OK.  So let’s study this for another year or more.  Apparently the people that will be killed by fatigued drivers during this period of study are expendable…collateral damage if you will.

Or maybe they’re just the cost of doing business.  After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, don’t you know.  So what’s good for the ATA (American Trucking Association) is good for all of us.   Right?  Well maybe good for everyone except those of us who get calls in the middle of the day, those of us signing our family member away to a funeral home, those of us left with a hole that can never be filled.  Those of us angry in our grief.

I’m not apologizing for this rant.  It’s your choice to read or not read.  Comment or not.  It wasn’t written for you.  It was written for me.  Because I have to go back to Washington and talk to these people again about common sense safety issues.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t have to explain simple concepts to people that are in power and are supposed to be experts in their fields.  I shouldn’t have to exploit Dad’s death to get something done.  I shouldn’t have to relive the whole thing over and over and over so that they can justify ‘studying’ things some more.

Give it up people.  The time for studying and discussion is over.  We need some action.  People are dying.

I don’t know what more I can say.


32 Comments

Torn

I’m back in Michigan, and it’s lovely here, with sun and blue sky, a bit of white snow left on the ground. It might get to 50F this afternoon.

My last night at the lake the sky finally cooperated and provided a worthy sunset.

Still.

The fact that it was a foggy morning made it somewhat easier to leave.

In Alabama it was beginning to warm up too, daffodils were blooming, and when the sun broke through the rain clouds we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s.

For weeks, this trip, I passed this field and remembered one year when cows where there and how photogenic the spot was. But I never saw any cows there until the day I was leaving town.

My last day in Alabama I sat on the deck and enjoyed listening to the birds singing. The brown thrush were chasing each other around the yard. Blue birds were flitting everywhere. Robins sang in the morning and ducks and geese gathered in the lake.

I took tiny little two lane roads that curled through the mountains as I headed north. The better to find interesting things to photograph.

It would have been wonderful, after almost a full month of rain, to sit there for a few more days.

There were a lot of interesting places along the way.

Still.

You don’t always have to have a structure to make an image interesting. Especially with fog.

My husband and my Katie-girl were in Michigan and I’d been gone a long time. I felt somewhat guilty lounging around in the South while my husband dog-sat the demanding princess.

So many old, abandoned homesteads tucked in the hills.

Still.

I think about all the families whose dreams moved on to somewhere else.

My sister and brother are in the South and I hadn’t seen either of them in more than two years, so it was great to spend weekends with them, painting with my sister, going on a boat ride with my brother. It would have been nice to stick around and spend more time with them.

So many barns hanging on.

Still.

So many decisions to make.

My girl, who lives in the moment, had spent enough moments without her mama. She must have felt like she’d never see me again.

A high point in Alabama. Plus the sun started to break through the fog.

Still.

Lots of barns still in use.

There were more adventures to be had in the south.

I turned around to get this, because of the car.

Still.

A cozy barn nestled in the hills.

There are adventures to be had in the north too.

Solidly facing a new day.

So here I am, enjoying sunshine while wearing a coat, tickling the princess tummy, feeding my birds, watching the squirrels. And it’s good.

Some grey barns are by design, not by age.

Still….

Photos in this post are from my last evening at the lake, and my drive north.

Kinda missing this place now.


24 Comments

Sixteenth anniversary

Early in the morning, sixteen years ago today, dad went home to be with mom.

Studying a map. But there’s no roadmap to heaven.

We said, sadly, that she sent a semi-truck to collect him; she’d been gone five months and they hadn’t been apart for that long since the early days of their marriage when dad got drafted into the army.

1954, he’s in the army now.

So today my family and I think about him. And them. And wish it all could have been different.

1961, the whole family.

But there is comfort knowing they are together for always.

The way I like to think of them, laughing and happy.

When mom came down and collected him that morning, sixteen years ago, I imagine he was glad to see her but worried about leaving all of us.

1990, still had fourteen years of marriage ahead of them.

So I’ll remind him, you both raised us well, rest easy; we’re doing just fine.

See you both again someday.

50th wedding anniversary on Lake Michigan.


3 Comments

Giving Tuesday thanks

Here it is Friday already and I haven’t been back to thank so many of you for your support of my Giving Tuesday Facebook fundraiser.

As you may remember I was raising funds for CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) which is a 501c3 under the umbrella of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC). I’m a volunteer with them, and have been since dad was killed December 23, 2004 by a tired semi driver who failed to see traffic stopped ahead of him.

Anyway, giving Tuesday is a way for people to easily donate to nonprofits and many of you donated to mine, and I can’t thank you enough.

This year we had two anonymous donors each willing to match the first $10,000 we raised, so it was very important that collectively we get to that magic mark, and we did! We actually raised about $13,000, so all in all the organizations, between CRASH and P.A.T.T (Parents Against Tired Trucking, the other organization under the TSC umbrella) raised $33,000.

This is much more than we’ve ever been able to raise on this platform before, and that’s due to our First Reponse Coordinator getting behind the effort, organizing us and cheering us on. Next year we hope to have even more volunteers put up their own fundraiser on Giving Tuesday so that we can raise even more.

By maintaining our fundraisers, talking about them throughout the day (I even did a live interview), changing the images at the top, sharing it often, we not only kept ourselves front and center, but we reenergized our donor base and our volunteers.

Now we’re ready to start work — there is much to be done, and with your help we’ll be able to move forward, helping more people, one family at a time. If you weren’t able to help, that’s OK, I appreciate your emotional support as much as your monetary support. I know you guys have my back and that counts more than you can ever know.

Again, thank you all so much.


27 Comments

In preparation of Giving Tuesday

It’s become a bigger and bigger thing, Giving Tuesday. Put on by Facebook, it’s a day when nonprofits post about their organizations and ask for friends and familiy, and friends of their friends and family, to give a little to help. There are all sorts of nonprofits, and each one has a worthy story to tell.

Long time readers know our story, but we’re coming up on the anniversary and tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. It seems like a good time to tell it again.

In 2004, early in the morning of December 23rd, my dad was killed by a sleepy semi driver while on his way to the Atlanta airport with a ticket in his pocket to fly north for the holidays.

That’s the short and shocking version. The long version is just as shocking once you realize how preventable dad’s and so many other crashes are.

After dad was killed, and while we were trying to get our footing, someone found the Truck Safety Coalition online, and through them we found a truck crash lawyer who knew exactly what to do to protect our rights. Suddenly we had help.

And once all of that was settled some of us found that we wanted to help other families too, so we joined the Truck Safety Coalition to talk to folks who were facing the same sorts of challenges we did. We have two goals; we provide support to families who are just as shocked as we were and we educate lawmakers about the dangers on our roads. By doing both we provide a place for people just like us, living with unimaginable pain, to use their grief to make our roads safer.

It’s complicated, I know. Nothing is black and white, every regulation has unintended consequences. But every family I’ve talked to in the sixteen years since dad was killed wants the same thing we did way back then – we just want fewer families to have to go through the loss and grief we went through.

Just over 5,000 people died in truck-related crashes in 2019. Over 125,000 people were injured and trends are continuing to go up. Every time we hold our Sorrow to Strength conference I meet new families who are in the middle of crushing pain.

There are always new families.

Truck crashes are not Republican or Democrat, they don’t recognize any particular religion or faith, don’t care about race, ethnicity or gender. Truck crash survivors and families of victims who come to us for help become members of our truck safety family, and we know that within our family we are understood and supported. Even sixteen years after the crash.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. I’ll have a post up on Facebook asking for donations to CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) which along with P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) form the Truck Safety Coalition. Both CRASH and P.A.T.T are 501c3 nonprofits, and this year because of a Covid Relief Bill (the CARE Act), everyone is allowed to use up to a $300 charitable donation as a tax deduction even if you don’t normally get to deduct charitable gifts.

So I’m hoping some (OK a lot) of you will consider making that donation. This year we have two anomymous donors who are matching the first $10K we raise on Tuesday. So your $1.00 donation will actually give us $3.00!

Thank you for reading this, and looking at pictures of my dad. My brothers and sister and I miss him every single day, and always will. Sadly we know there are thousands of new families, just in 2020, that are missing their family members, or dealing with traumatic injuries too.

Please help us help them.