Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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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We could use a smile

Things have gotten kind of crazy here in the States. No matter which side of the virus crisis argument you stand, it’s gotten crazy. I feel like I need to write something about all of this, but I also think we all need to stop and take a deep breath and maybe even smile.

This guy is a red-bellied woodpecker, showing off his red belly.

So, for now, I’m going to go for the smile.

Yesterday I took my neighbor out to my favorite park to feed the birds. She and her husband have just moved into the neighborhood and I’ve told them about the experience of having wild birds land in your hand.

The usual suspects stopped by for a snack.

This week we both had time to spend out there, and the timing was good. The sandhill cranes are back and the red-winged blackbirds arrived just a couple days ago.

This couple greeted us soon after we got out of the car.

Both are hungry.

I told her that the blackbirds wouldn’t come sit on our hands, they are always interested in the food happenings but will usually wait around until we move off and then go in for the leftovers. Just as I was saying this a huge blackbird landed on my hand.

“Thanks, Lady, this peanut is irresistible!”

I guess they were really hungry, because several of them swarmed around for a treat. I’ve never had them come in like that before, and it was pretty cool.

Of course the cranes were intent on getting lunch too. As we were feeding the little birds these two sauntered up the path behind us.

The cranes that welcomed us to their park stopped by to see if we had anything good.

We had seen them over by the parking lot, but apparently they were interested enough in us to follow us as we made our way into the woods.

We wandered through the woods, over hills and across streams. Just about everywhere we stopped little birds came flying. It was so much fun!

On our way back to the car I noticed these three coming to see us at a fast jog.

“It’s a race! Whoever gets to those ladies first gets the best treats!”

They were absolutely beautiful, look at the colors in their heads…

They almost look fake.

…and in the feathers on their back. The sun wasn’t even out and they still glowed.

Stunning!

Speaking of bird heads…I was speaking of those right? Look at these two closeups of the crane heads….one of them had more feathers making the red part look like a heart.

A heart shaped forehead.

And the other in this particular pair didn’t have similar facial feathers at all.

A more streamlined face.

I wonder if one is a female and one is a male…or is one just different?

Now, a turkey head…well…these are just weird. I think Dr. Seuss designed the turkey.

“What you looking at lady?”

Anyway, we had the best time, and we were serenaded out of the park by another pair of cranes in conjunction with our new best friends, the three turkeys!

Do you see them? They’re both screeching. The turkeys behind us were gobbling. It was pretty intense.

My neighbor shared our stories with her husband and he wanted to experience it all for himself. So this morning we headed back out. Today we had blue skies and big puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.

We were met by the parking lot greeter cranes.

Nom nom nom…

And then we ventured back into the woods. At first it took a lot to entice those little birds to come out of the trees for a treat.

“I’m not sure I’m coming down there, people!”

But eventually we found a spot with lots of the little guys and we spent a long time letting them flit around us looking for good stuff.

“Thanks, mister!”

And of course a pair of cranes came wandering up to see if we were worth investigating.

“Good stuff hiding under these leaves!”

So we had two days of smiles this week which, thankfully, eclipsed all the news on television. I guess things will probably get worse before they get better, but as long as we have retreats like this to escape into, we’ll get by just fine.

The sun always comes back.

I hope you are all finding something to smile about too. If you do, share them in your blog and link back to Trent’s smile post. He’ll post a recap on Monday of everyone’s smile.

These days sharing smiles is something of a public service.


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A roller coaster week

Katie here. You might have noticed that mama hasn’t posted in a week. That’s like 7 weeks in dog math, and almost unprecedented! I’ve been noticing a distinct lack of smiles on mama’s face too, so I decided I needed to take action.

A little snow always makes the world look better.

And this morning, when it started to snow I knew just what I had to do.

I had to get mama off the sofa and out into the snow! Cause who doesn’t like snow? I mean, what’s not to like? It’s white and clean and fluffy. Mama says it’s also cold. And wet. And a precursor to mud.

Yep, a little bit of snow makes everything look better.

Mama tends to get a bit negative toward the end of winter.

Anyway, we went out and explored the backyard. It was simply beautiful, even mama had to agree. And it wasn’t all that wet and cold either. I thought maybe, just maybe, mama would smile.

While mama was busy with her camera, I was busy breaking up sticks. It’s a never ending job.

And she did lighten up a bit when she was focused on that silly camera of hers and all the pretty things in the yard.

Pretty in white.

Including me, of course.

Just the perfect amount of snow to play in.

But you know what really got her to smile? It was these little green nubby things she found in one of her gardens.

Huh…green made mama smile!

And the three red winged blackbirds that sang to us just as we headed back inside. She said that was really worth smiling over!

Though I have to say I should get more credit. Cause really, a sheltie in the snow? That has to make you all smile!

Admit it. I just made you smile.

PS: Mama says that she was feeling very sad because a friend’s sheltie crossed the rainbow bridge Monday and he was just about exactly my age and she feels really really sad for his mom and human brother. Mama almost didn’t let me post today because she was worried it might make the mom even more sad. But I said that we could send our love to her this way, and if she ever needs a sheltie hug I’m available. I hope she’s doing OK, though I know her eyes are probably leaking right now. I wish I could make it all better for her.

Thinking about our friend on this snowy morning.


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We’re in the West!

Sometimes when you’re off exploring you get so overwhelmed with new sights that you just don’t know where to start. And that’s where I am right now.

On a drive up toward Roosevelt Lake north of Phoenix.

We’re in Arizona. Well, technically right this minute we’re in Colorado, but I have to get you caught up, and that means starting in Arizona. The images here are from the end of last week, starting in the Phoenix area where we visited friends.

Roosevelt Lake, on a beautiful sunny day.

We took a drive north of Phoenix, up toward Roosevelt Lake, driving through all sorts of terrain. The lake was beautiful, but the most beautiful that trip was this bridge.

Such a perfect reflection!

I liked that the ducks were swimming and messing up the glassy surface of the lake too.

A duck swims through the reflection.

After we visited for a couple days, we headed north for some exploring. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle, in Camp Verde, Arizona, where down a short walkway you could see the cliff dwelling sitting high up in the white stone. This dwelling was built and lived in by people from about 1100 to 1425.

Montezuma’s Castle, a cliff dwelling set along a beautiful river.

Then we traveled a few miles to Tuzigoot National Monument, another Indian ruin, this one sitting high on a hill.

Way up on that hill is the ruin of another Indian community.

We had perfect weather to explore the stone structure…

Lots of rooms in this multi-layered structure.

…and enjoy the views.

Long vistas, and no snow!

And finally, that day, we visited Montezuma’s well, a small lake that is fed fresh water from deep in the earth beneath the pond. Centuries ago it was a special place for gathering of the Indians from all over the region.

Fresh water coming up from the bottom, leaches out through the rock into a river below.

We were lucky enough to talk with a young man there whose people used to come there to pray and dance. He says they still do during certain times of the year.

There were cliff dwellings at the well too.

Since then we’ve seen a sunset in the desert, visited the Petrified Forest over the span of two days, wandered in the painted desert and crossed into Colorado.

Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Oh and we spent one night in Winslow Arizona….had to get the iconic picture of that!

“Standin on a corner in Winslow Arizona…”

I haven’t even looked at the past two days worth of pictures, much less picked out some for you…but I will. We’ve seen some spectacular scenery and you’re not going to want to miss it!

Stay tuned.

Iconic Arizona


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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.


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Behind the fog

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

A dreary day is brightened by a visitor.

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

My mind is in a fog too.

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

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

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

Puffed up against the cold he knew he looked magnificent.

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

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

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

Coming in close to offer comfort.

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

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

A bit of a snack before heading out.


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Cello Tales

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

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

A cello at rest.

Probably because I wasn’t even sure myself.

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

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

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

Joan got a lesson too.

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

Learning how to hold the bow.

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

Carol was so patient.

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

Turns out Joan’s husband was a natural.

So much to remember.

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

Not quite a virtuoso, but smiling.

Amazing.

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

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

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

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

Mind boggling.

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

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

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

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

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

It felt beautiful.

The moon rises over a wonder filled day.


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Windy smile

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

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

We were very appreciative of that alone.

It was a blustery day on the Lake.

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

Crazy man.

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

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

But the sun came out!

The sun made even the wind a little more bearable.

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

A different angle shows off the colors of the lake.

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

And there we found a wind surfer.

Getting ready to be crazy.

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

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

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

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

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

Riding the wind.

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

Fun under a dark sky.

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

South Haven lighthouse enjoys an early winter bath.