Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Foggy glow

It all started, as things often do, with an early morning appointment.

For years Katie-girl got me up extra early and while we were outside doing her business I’d usually witness beautiful but fleeting things. Geese or swans flying low with bellies glowing in the early light. Full moons dipping below the branches of our trees. A fox slipping silently through the woods. The flick of a deer’s white tail. Wisps of fog dancing on the pond.

But I haven’t been out in the early morning light lately.

Last week, once our 7:30 a.m. oil change was completed, my sister and I were driving home just as the sun was trying to break through the fog. It was beautiful, and we looked at each other and said….”Where can we go to get pictures of this?”

And…lucky for us we were only one exit away from one of my favorite parks, Holly Recreation, where Katie and I used to camp and wander the trails.

I felt a twinge of grief as I contemplated visiting one of her parks without her. But as we entered the park I realized the best place for pictures would be down near the lake and there was a parking lot Katie and I hardly ever used that would work perfectly for morning fog photos.

I felt relieved. I could be in the park, but not in Katie’s favorite part where I would feel her loss the most. Progress ,on this grief journey, is often made with tiny steps.

We parked and walked up and down that section of the road, taking pictures of the sun rising above the water, and the fog through the trees.

The reflections were gorgeous and we probably looked like crazy old ladies as we giggled and called back and forth to “come here and look at this!”

And when our fingers were frozen and our feet were soggy we climbed back into the car laughing as we cranked the heat up and scrolled through the images on our phones, each one better than the one before.

You can’t beat a good morning adventure – Katie taught me that over and over and over again. I like to think she was with us that morning, saying “I told you mama! You have to get out of bed early in the morning to catch the best stuff!”

I know, little girl, I know.


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Colors trigger memories

The maple trees around here are turning colors. They are brilliant reds and oranges and golds this year.

Out on the main road is this little pond. It puts on a show every fall.

Each year I notice how beautiful they are, each year I think the colors are the prettiest ever.

In our small local cemetery the sun focused on a single branch.

Just like this year.

But today I also feel tinges of sadness as fall progresses because my little girl, the one who loved fall and who believed the trees turned color just for her isn’t here to enjoy it.

Our empty backyard.

Katie looked so beautiful in fall colors.

Her colors.

She’s everywhere I look.


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A conversation

Hey Katie-girl.

Today marks three months since you went over that bridge alone. I think about you every day. But you know that, don’t you.

It’s your favorite time of year, sweetie.

This morning I went to your park to take a walk. It’s the first time I’ve been there alone since you left.

Morning light made the flowers glow.

You know your daddy and I were at your park just after that day, with your Aunt Beth, and she played the bagpipes for you near the pond.

You’d be upset at how much algae is in your pond.

I haven’t been able to go back since, sweetie, not without you. It hurt so much to be a Katie’s Park today, but I had a mission.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

The goldenrod is beautiful this year.

First of all I parked at the township office instead of where you and I always parked. I didn’t think I was ready for everything to be the same and yet so different. So I parked in a different spot.

That helped me get out of the car.

Blue sky and yellow fields.

The park was beautiful, as always. You would have loved it, the air was cool and the sun was just up over the treetops.

Loosestrife, I know it’s invasive but it’s so pretty.

But you wouldn’t have loved getting your feet wet. The path was overgrown, here at summer’s end, and the grass was long and heavy with dew.

You always spent a long time sniffing that corner at the beginning of your path.

The good sniffs might have made up for your wet paws though. I imagine you wouldn’t have grumbled too much, you loved walking in your park so much.

I smiled at that thought.

Lots of wet spider webs. You’d have stuck your nose into a few of them for sure.

I was pretty proud of myself, that I smiled at all. Because mostly I was crying as I walked along. I imagined you everywhere. All our favorite places.

Leaves are beginning to turn. You always looked so good in the fall foliage.

Your turtle friends were out but I didn’t see much else. That might have been because my eyes were all leaky.

I think they were wondering where you’ve been.

It was even hard for me to tell if stuff was in focus on my camera. Yes, silly, of course I brought the camera. Though it wasn’t as much fun without you.

I took a picture of my favorite trees, though it’s hard to understand how they can still be standing when you’re not here.

Anyway, my mission was to hang a memory tag on the remembrance tree. You remember when your Aunt Karen and you and I hung some tags for Reilly and Denny and Norwood, right?

Three beautiful boys remembered. Now there are more we should include.

Well, she had a special tag made for you and she gave it to me after you had to go. I haven’t been able to hang it on the tree until today. I put it right next to your handsome fiancé Reilly’s tag.

Can you read what it says, sweetie? Of course you can.

I know you and Reilly are together now, and you’re both loving the beach and the woods while you wait for your people to arrive. It makes me feel better to know you have so many friends there with you.

Everything in it’s season.

Today I hung your tag at your favorite park, sweetie. I just wanted you to know. Miss you baby-girl.

Love, Mama.

See you around the next curve, Katie-girl.

Well, of course I know mama! Where do you think I was while you were wandering around and crying all over my park? I was right there beside you. Silly mama, I’m always right there beside you. Thanks for hanging my tag, it’s real pretty. Thank Aunt Karen for getting it for me too, OK?

Love you always, mama. Tell daddy I love him too. Got to go now, Reilly wants to go run on the beach.

-Your angel-girl, Katie.


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What am I doing?

I’m off on a grand adventure. Well. An adventure of some sort anyway.

My adventure land for the first two nights.

Have you ever wondered what people do all day when they’re camping? Since I grew up camping I never considered that a question. It’s always been obvious to me. You do stuff.

Mostly what I’ve been doing.

On my current adventure I’ve been reading. And entertaining this guy who tried to climb into my lap on several occasions.

I think he’s had plenty of snacks already.

I haven’t gone exploring or walked the trails. I’ve been here before, many times, usually with Katie. At this exact site. So I spent a lot of time staring up into the sky and talking to her.

Hey girlie, remember all the times we spent here together?

And crying of course. Because I miss her so much. She was definitely with me these last couple of days at site #43.

Katie’s just around that next bend. I’m sure of it.

But mostly what I have been doing is waiting for it to get dark. And hoping that the sky will remain clear. So I can do this.

Maybe I was overrun by aliens. Or shooting stars. Or not.

Well, not exactly this….on this shot the center pole decided to slowly sink and swing the camera around in the middle of the 15 second shot. Still, it’s cool.

No, I was working more toward this.

This was one of the first shots, just to figure out where the Milky Way was.

But not exactly this either. I took a lot more, and I’ve only processed a couple of the images from that first night under the stars.

Actually there’s only been one night under the stars. Because the second day it poured rain.

In between the downpours I ventured into town to get gas.

And when it wasn’t raining I sat and worked on the images from the night before.

Wishing it would stop raining.

I thought about where I’d be going next. I knew it was across the bridge.

Beautiful even in the rain.

I’d never been to the state park I was headed to over there before so I was kind of excited. Not so excited that I wanted to drive across the bridge in the pouring rain though.

So I waited.

On a rainy afternoon might as well go for a hotdog. Actually, no I didn’t.

And waited. And waited But the rain never stopped so eventually I took a deep breath and slowly drove across the bridge to the Upper Peninsula. Where it was raining.

It will clear up soon. I’m sure.

So what happened next? I can’t tell you because I need to take a shower and check out of my hotel room.

Stay tuned.

There might be a barn or two involved.


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On the way from here to there

I took myself off for a camping adventure this week. First stop was a park Katie and I have visited several times. Most of the time we end up in site 43.

Turns out four years ago yesterday Katie and I were at this very site, packing up, heading for home.

Four years ago at site 43. I don’t want to leave, mama!

But first I took her up to the Mackinaw Bridge, because she had never seen it. She wasn’t all that impressed. And the ride home was extra long because we went north before we went south. But she was a trooper and never complained. Much.

Best rest stop ever, mama!

This trip I stopped at a rest stop just before my exit, because it’s one of Katie’s favorite rest stops. Turns out there was a commercial truck inspection going on. All trucks were mandated to pull off the freeway at the rest stop so commercial vehicle inspectors could check their rigs and their hours of service.

Thank you to Michigan’s State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection team.

I walked over to the table at the front of the inspection line and thanked the two officers there. I told them the truth, that whenever I saw them and a commercial truck pulled over I give them a thumbs up and that it was nice to be able to do that in person.

Then I gave them my Truck Safety Card, thanked them again, and went on my way feeling better about our roads knowing the state police are working on it.

Next month I’ll be in DC again, along with many other families and victims of truck crashes. We’ll be voicing our objections to some things going on (teen truckers) and asking for more changes, (increased minimum insurance, automatic emergency braking on ALL trucks) many of the same changes we’ve been asking ever since I started this journey almost 18 years ago.

Our last press conference, 2019

Change is hard.