Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


10 Comments

So they aren’t forgotten

Something horrible happened in this beautiful place.


We’ve all seen them, those markers of loss by the side of the road. Do you wonder about the person they represent? When a new one appears do you feel a sudden stab of emotion?

I do.

Sometimes these memorials act as reminders to drive safely.

I think I’ve always unconsciously noticed the markers, but ever since my dad was killed on a Georgia freeway I’ve been more aware.

And more curious.

I don’t know who this was, or what it symbolizes, but I nod hello when I go by.

Because I know we as a family wanted the spot that dad died be marked. A life changing event happened there and it seemed wrong that the road returned to normal almost immediately after. That thousands of people passed by and no one knew what an extraordinary place it was.

Somehow you want people to know.

Sadly, turned left in front of a truck.

So for a few years I’ve stopped at roadside memorials, wherever it was safe to do so, and taken a picture to document the name and dates.

The driver lost control, she was ejected from the vehicle.

And back at home I’d try to find something out about that person. Sometimes I’d find a report of the crash, or the obituary.

See the gash at the bottom of the tree? I think she became an angel right here.

And then, each time I passed the memorial I’d remember that person, sort of an acknowledgement of their existence, a bit of sorrow at the way they left.

State trooper hit by vehicle pulling a trailer, dragged to his death.

I think that’s what the families want, to keep their loved one alive in the minds or hearts of people.

It’s not always a religious symbol.

I feel sad for all of them, but none so much as the young ones. The young drivers, the children who happened to be in the vehicles.

A young driver, he crossed the center line on a curve.

There seem to be so many of them.

Nothing permanent, just left the flowers from the funeral. Motorcycle hit a deer, then a car hit him.

So what, are you asking, did we do at the site of the crash that killed dad? It’s on a very busy piece of freeway, about an hour west of Atlanta, right at a truck weigh station. We knew we couldn’t safely stop there for much more than a moment.

Some crashes happened so long ago, but family never forgets.

So we concocted a plan.

We bought three bags of daffodil bulbs, loaded up into the car with a pic and a shovel and drove there one rainy afternoon. We pulled over as far as we could, piled out of the car, hacked a hole in the soil, tossed the bulbs in and covered them up as fast as we could while cars and trucks streamed by.

Some are so recent.

In the fourteen years since, I’ve rarely been in the South at the right time of year, and never have I taken the more than hour drive from the lake over to the crash site to see if they’ve survived.

The loss of small children breaks my heart.

But last spring I went.

And the road was still as busy, several lanes of trucks and cars flying by. Lots and lots of trucks on all sides of me. I couldn’t really take a long look. But out of the corner of my eye, as I passed the site I saw something.

Waiting in the dying light to offer solace.

Just a simple flash of yellow, there below the guardrail.

I’m not sure how many daffodils were in bloom, I think more than one. To be honest it could have been a yellow solo cup, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that for a brief moment, driving down that freeway, my heart sang and I smiled.

So many stories lost.

So if the daffodils really bloom, there along the highway every spring, then I have to think a few other people have noticed them as they speed past. And maybe they smiled too, and wondered at their meaning.

And I think dad would have enjoyed the beauty and mystery of that.

Hope.


13 Comments

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.


4 Comments

Traveling girl checking in with her public

The pond at my park this morning!


Katie here. Well! I know you’ve missed me; I’ve been trying to get mama to let me post for weeks, but she can be awful selfish about her blog.

You and I know the truth, though. It’s all about me.

I am the princess of the family and a princess needs her soap box to stand on once in awhile. Wait. I think that’s wrong. I don’t need a soap box! I need a big box of treats to stand on! Yea! That’s it. Let me write that down so I can remind mama….one moment please.

OK. I’m back. Literally actually, I’m back from an extended vacation with mama and daddy to Alabama. Mama and I drove down near the beginning of June and daddy and I drove back up this week!

Me and my Alabama air conditioning vent.

Whew!! That was a long time to be away from my castle. But of course I just made the lake house my castle, and as it had a royal air conditioning vent for me to sleep on, it was just fine.

Anyway, I’m back in Michigan now and guess what? Mama took me to check out my park this morning!

Waiting for my mama to get done goofing off with her camera.

I haven’t been there in forever! I was so excited! Mama said we needed to go early in the morning before it got too hot.

Mama spent way too much time trying to take a picture of this grass.

We messed that up cause mama was sleeping. So we didn’t get out there till a little after 9 and it was already too hot! I let mama know by laying down every time she stopped to take pictures of stuff.

Really mama? More pictures of not me??

Which was a lot.

I don’t understand mama. We’re at my park and she’s busy taking pictures of stuff that is not me. Inconceivable! Who wants to look at pictures of not me?

Nature’s lace.

Mama noticed that I was laying down a lot. She said it broke her heart, and she decided we wouldn’t walk very far. And she was very careful to make sure I had shade when she was busy with her little camera, but sometimes I swear she forgot I was even there. One time I got mad at her so I lay down with my back to her.

This is a total waste of a perfectly good walk in my park mama!

And you know what she did? She went around the corner when I wasn’t looking and she waited to see what I would do! Well! As soon as I noticed she wasn’t there anymore I took off running to find her.

Mama!!!!

I don’t think it was very nice of her to laugh at me.

After that I didn’t ignore her as much, cause I had learned she can be a sneaky mama. She found some beautiful flowers on the way back to the car.

Look! It’s an outdoor bouquet!

I didn’t mind sitting near them for her. I sort of thought they smelled good, but mama said they didn’t really smell at all.

These smell like bacon!

Not for her maybe, but for a sheltie-girl they smelled real good.

Anyway, I sort of had fun even though it was hot and mama was distracted, and worst of all she forgot my treats! On the way back we saw a green heron standing on a picnic table and some really cool turtles. But mama didn’t have her big camera so there aren’t any pictures of that.

Such a pretty morning.

I told mama that was OK, you guys have good imaginations, you know what stuff looks like, right? Mama just sighed and said every time she goes out without her big camera she regrets it and then she said something about coming over to the park some morning without me.

We’re a team mama.

WHAT???? Mama! It’s called KATIE’S PARK for a reason. You better not try to visit it without me, cause I’ll know. Shelties are super smart and we know things.

So don’t even think about it!

You wouldn’t leave me behind…would you mama?


10 Comments

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.


13 Comments

Lake living – the view from here

Sometimes the clouds just glow.


I am sitting in the living room, keeping one eye on the big picture window that overlooks the lake and the other on my computer screen. With any sign of movement out there the window gets my entire attention.

The doggy jet ski just went by!

I mean, what’s the point of living on the lake if you’re not watching it? Early in the morning the first thing I do every day is check the lake and the sky above it to see whether there’s anything interesting yet.

Morning earlier this week when the moon was full.

There almost always is.

Woman and her dog take a paddleboat ride while fish jumps in joy.

In fact, my Facebook friends are probably tired of getting that early (and sometimes not so early) morning image of the lake outside my window. But I never tire of it.

Summer slide waits for storm clouds to dissipate.

Oh sometimes, perhaps once every couple of days, I leave my picture window and get out on the water. Sometimes we fly out to the ‘big water’ in the ski boat to see what’s new. Perhaps to bob in the warm water and watch the sunset unrestrained by landscape.

Sunset on the ‘big water.’ Picture taken by my sister from our boat.

More often it’s just me and my little kayak that venture out, either in early morning or late afternoon. Sometimes even as the sun is going down, always in search of something beautiful.

An evening paddle.

The lake never disappoints me.

Early night boat wake as the last of the sunset disappears.

So I’m sharing random photos of life on the lake. Just things I’ve seen and captured, moments in time all revolving around sky and water and weather.

Crazy skies over a lake playground.

Sometimes I’m sitting at the house, watching the world go by.

Two guys in their kayaks enjoy a summer day.

Sometimes I’m out in the water letting the sky point the way.

Late evening light as we head home in the boat.

I don’t think there’s a better way to live than on water, any kind of water. A river, a pond, a lake, an ocean. Water changes all the time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to get the camera (which is rarely far from me) and by the time I get the lens cap off the light has changed, the boat has moved, the sun or moon has ducked behind a cloud.

Just as I’m typing this the sky changed from bright blue with white clouds piling up to pouring down rain. Honest…it was sunny as I was typing the previous sentence and now I can’t see across the lake. Good thing I went down to the dock and got the last image down at the bottom of the post when I did.

An afternoon swim is always good too.

The moment is lost.

A little rain cools things off and never sticks around for long.

I’m always sad for an instant, but then remember that I was thrilled to have seen it at all. Sometimes I even go for a walk or a paddle without a camera, just to prove to myself that I am capable of enjoying the sights without recording them all.

Clouds and water make for a perfect evening.

But that’s very hard for me. I seem to see almost everything as a series of images. Sometimes I can’t help myself but to point out something to the people I’m with. The angle of a tree, the light behind a building, the shape of a cloud.

Trees frame a visitor to our dock.

My family usually just nods and smiles as they indulge me. So here I am, sharing with you, these random water and sky images. Because I can’t help myself.

I hope you’ll indulge me too.

Clouds gather every afternoon before our daily rain.


16 Comments

When truck safety visits the lake

Heading out before the sun sets.

As most of you know I volunteer for a nonprofit that works on truck safety issues. It’s made up of volunteers, most of which have either survived a crash with a large commercial truck or have had family or friends killed in a crash with a truck.

We get together in Washington D.C., usually to fight some piece of legislation that we feel will make our roads less safe than they are now. And every other year we meet there for a conference called Sorrow to Strength where we learn how to make change and where we spend days in meetings with our Members of Congress and the DOT and other agencies that make or enforce rules surrounding trucks.

It’s pretty stressful.

We’ve often talked about wanting to spend time with each other when we’re not working, not talking endlessly about our losses, not overcome with grief, not walking up and down Capitol Hill until our feet ache to match our hearts.

Lots of big puffy white clouds began to turn pink.

Three years ago some of us were able to meet in Maine. We had a wonderful time sitting around eating lobster and talking around a campfire until late into the evening.

Huge mounds of cloud build up to the South.

And this past weekend a few of the volunteers came here to Lake Martin. It felt good to be together in a less stressful place. It felt good to host them in Dad’s home. It was like having a big family reunion. In fact it was a family reunion, because these people are my truck safety family. They are people who know better than anyone what it’s like to get that call. What it’s like to be in the car.

What it’s like.

We ate too much and lazed around in the sun. We hung out together, thankful that we have each other while wishing we didn’t belong to the family at all.

And then they all turned pink.

Swimming, water skiing, just floating in the warm waters of the lake was so much fun. Even climbing the mountain and then the fire tower in the Alabama heat was fun. There were hugs and lots of laughter, and even a few tears when my sister played Amazing Grace on her bagpipes at sunset.

Headed back North the sky was entirely different.

We took pictures, of course, of us goofing off in the water, climbing the mountain and the fire tower, eating and laughing. But I need to maintain everyone’s privacy, so rather than show you those photos I’ve used last night’s sunset images throughout this post.

Floating in pink and gold.

I was out in my kayak and the sky was amazing. Sort of like spending the weekend with my truck safety family.

Simply amazing.

And then the moon came up.


25 Comments

Sensory overload

The plan was to write about an event my husband and I hosted over the weekend. Since Saturday I’ve been thinking about what I’d write come Monday evening.

It all started out like this.

But as usual I got distracted by the view outside my window. It was hard not to watch as over the course of a few hours we went from blue skies and puffy white clouds to an amazing pink and purple finish.

And then we got our typical afternoon storm.

I can’t help but share with you just a few of the images I’ll never forget.

The afternoon thunderstorm lasted longer than the thirty minutes we’ve become accustomed to. And to the north of us the sun continued to shine, making the rain glisten as it streamed into the lake.

The lake turned green with silver beads of rain.

And then, after an hour or so the rain stopped and the sky lightened and the lake went glassy in preparation for donning her evening wear.

Anticipation builds.

Things started to turn pink and gold.

Now it’s getting interesting.

Katie and I headed to the dock at a brisk pace as the sky began to change. For once she didn’t have to stop and sniff every blade of grass. She seemed to sense my urgency.

We started out gold.

And as we stood on the dock in amazement this happened.

Unbelievable.

Katie was so overwhelmed she didn’t even ask for a treat as payment to pose.

Hey mama! I’m pink!

The color just kept intensifying. It was hard to know where to shoot. So I just shot everywhere.

Simply beyond words.

And then, as we stood there, trying to remember to breath, the color faded to purple and the light slowly died.

The closing act.

Mother Nature gave quite a show. She presented her best finery tonight, and I hope wherever you are you were given a similar gift. But if you happened to have rain, or boring empty skies, I’m sharing Katie’s and my sunset.

Because it was just too big not to.

Good night everyone!


11 Comments

Paddle away the blues

Sometimes being here at the house my parents built without them gets a little sad. Though it’s beautiful here it’s also filled with lots of memories.

Savoring the stillness.

Everywhere.

So the other evening, feeling a bit melancholy, I took a little paddle upstream. The evening was warm and still.

Mountains of clouds.

I spent a little time just sitting near the green trees, floating in the water, the clouds reflected all around me. It was just what I needed to fix my blues.

Green reflected in green.

Being a weekday it was quiet, all the weekend lake lovers had to go back to their jobs and city lives. But as I was paddling back to the house a big pontoon boat slid by me creating large waves that gently rocked my kayak. I waved at them. They waved back at me.

Rocking in warm waters.

Southern living. It’s a good thing.

The day’s clouds produced no rain for us. This time.

I headed home to wait for the evening’s sunset.

Perfect.

Pretty in pink.