Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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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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.


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Truck Safety – the details

It’s a very busy place, Washington DC.


It all started when my dad was killed by a tired semi-truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t see the traffic stopped ahead of him early in the morning of December 23, 2004.

Since them members of my family have been traveling to Washington DC regularly to tell our story and lobby for safety on our nation’s roads. This past week my husband and I were there again, talking to the staff of House Representatives and Senators, as well as people at the DOT, about the bigger, heavier, longer trucks that are once again being proposed by some in the trucking industry.

Riding the metro to the Hill on a beautiful day.

Back in 2015 double 33 foot trailers were proposed by the trucking industry, they say because of a driver shortage. What they didn’t say is that adding 5 feet on each of two trailers, hauled in tandem, made the entire truck 83 feet, 8 inches long. That’s similar to an 8 story building. Try passing that on a busy freeway.

We worked long hours and got back to the hotel after dark most nights.

They also don’t tell you that it will take longer to stop, that the back trailer doesn’t track correctly going around corners and that they’re harder to drive, requiring a special endorsement on a driver’s commercial license.

In one of the lady’s rooms, mid century modern makeup chairs.

There’s already a shortage of drivers, finding experienced drivers to haul double 33 foot trailers isn’t going to be easy.

Mountain sculpture in the Hart Senate Building lobby.

Aside from the safety issues, many companies ship their goods ‘intermodal’ meaning they move over land on rails as well as highways, and across the ocean on ships. The 33 foot trailers won’t fit on rail cars as they are configured now, and container ships may have to change the way the trailers are stacked as well. Some people fear that smaller transport companies will be forced out of business as shippers and brokers move to the more competitive larger trailers to ship their goods, regardless of the level of safety attributed to these trailers.

Waiting for a shuttle I thought the metro lines above were interesting.

There’s an appropriations bill in the House of Representatives right now. It’s the kind of bill that ‘must pass’ because it funds most of the Federally mandated programs across the country. Some members of Congress have added amendments to the bill that we consider anti truck safety. Allowing for a study of the double 33 foot trailers is one of these amendments.

It wasn’t all work. We ate dinner down on the wharf near an old torpedo factory that has been turned into an artist loft.

You might think that we shouldn’t be afraid of studying something, and normally I’d agree. But there isn’t much data out there on double 33s, they are running on some roads of certain states, but not many. We’re concerned that the trucking industry will fund studies of their own, and of course those will be favorable.

Right now the amendment is still in the appropriations bill. An amendment offered by another Representative to strip it from the bill failed by a few votes. So we have work to do.

We walked up and down a lot of stairs.

And this is just one issue. There are so many more that I want to tell you about. We worked all week on the Hill, talking about speed limiters, hours of service, underride crashes and the bill sitting in Congress right now, Stop Underride, that needs to move out of committee.

One afternoon we even got to take some time off and visit the national zoo!

We walked between appointments, from the House side to the Senate side of the Hill and back again, in the hot, humid air of summer in DC. It was hard. But getting the call about Dad was harder and I reminded myself how important this all is.

And yes we got lucky and saw the famous pandas.

I know truck safety is not everyone’s thing. And I know some of you will have differing opinions on how to solve the problem of truck crashes on our highways. I have so much more to tell you, and to show you, about our trip to DC last week. But this is already too long, too boring, and just a little stressful.

We had one peaceful evening on the Mall.

So I put a few photos in for relief — just in case you’d rather just look at cool stuff. I’m OK with that too.

Studying before an appointment.

I’ll tell you more about our work in another post. Stay tuned.

The flight home was thankfully incident free.


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What I did on Mother’s Day

I’m not a mother, unless you count Katie-girl and she doesn’t recognize holidays. My own mother has been gone almost fourteen years, and though I miss her every day, this year I just didn’t have a traditional Mother’s Day post in me.

So I went out to my favorite park to spend some time among the birds that she loved. I feel like I got to spend some time with her while I wandered the woods and wetlands.

It’s a green spring here in Michigan.

There were lots of people, large groups, families, mostly noisy people there on this nice Sunday after days of rain. I wasn’t expecting to see much in the way of wildlife. But I was wrong.

I saw so much I don’t think I can share it all with you in one blog. So maybe I’ll just share with you a few (define few) of my favorites and not try to take you along on the whole walk.

While I was taking pictures of shaggy hickory bark I heard wings fluttering near my head. It was this little guy being quite persistent about wanting a treat.

Hey lady!

I held out my hand and he hopped right down. He was thoroughly disgusted that I didn’t have anything for him.

Seriously? Is this some kind of joke?

He flew off and sat on a branch talking to me. OK, OK I said, reaching into my pocket for a bit of seed.

Thanks lady!

You win.

But the highlight of this walk were the pileated woodpeckers. I saw one as soon as I turned off the main path. I heard him first and I stopped to look.

Looking for lunch.

I got to show the family walking behind me this amazing bird. He didn’t seem skittish and I watched him for a long time before moving on.

The family, now ahead of me, was excited to see a herd of deer not too far off the path. I didn’t expect to see anything when I got further up the path, but there they were.

All these people are interrupting my lunch!

I was looking for trillium, a flower that blooms in the woods here in Michigan. Around the next corner I saw a few, smaller this year than usual, but still pretty. I crawled down a steep creek bank to get an image…

Small white blossoms shine among last years leaves on the forest floor.

…then climbed back up the bank to sit on a bench and enjoy the scenery. As I flipped through the photos I’d taken so far I heard a pounding. What was that? I looked around and found a pair of pileated woodpeckers flitting around down along the creek. I crept up closer and watched.

There must have been good stuff in that stump.

They didn’t stay anywhere for long, and I have a lot of really bad images of blurry bird parts. But finally one of them stopped long enough for an unobstructed view.

A good spot to rest for a moment.

I sat there a long time, watching them and smiling. Eventually I realized a little friend had ventured up on the stump next to me. Begging for a bit of a treat.

Looks like he’s had plenty of treats already today.

Of course I tossed him a seed or two. Or three.

Just being in the woods was fun, even when there weren’t any birds to entertain me. The spring is so green, and everywhere I looked there was something interesting.

Tree art.

Time was passing and I felt like I needed to head back to the car. I was as far away as you could be and still be on the nature trails. I picked up my pace, intent on getting home to make dinner. Once again I heard fluttering near my head. This time it was a nuthatch wanting my attention. They’re usually a bit shy, though I’ve had them eat out of my hand before.

Got any more lady?

I held out a few seeds and the nuthatch flew in and grabbed one and then quickly flew off to some fallen trees. He did this a couple times, returning to my hand so quick that I didn’t think he was eating the seed. And then I saw him doing this.

No one will find it under here!

He was hiding the seed for future meals! I think anyway, maybe he was just doing aerobics. Each time he took a seed he flew to a different spot, depositing the seed and then rushing back for more. Such a little clown.

And while he was doing that, as I was standing there in the woods, interrupted on my rush home, I saw out of the corner of my eye this couple:

I’m just guarding my woman.

They were just across the creek. She was busy eating and he was busy showing off. There were several turkeys over there, but he was the only one obviously in a relationship.

I turned and headed back toward the parking lot. On the way I ran into another cute little woodpecker. He didn’t really want his picture taken so he moved around behind the old cattail reed he was working on.

You can’t see me. Right?

But I’m patient and eventually he worked his way around the stalk, intent on getting to something.

I’m not going to look at you lady!

I was almost back to the boardwalk and I figured I’d check out the heron rookery. Turns out it was really quiet, but there was plenty of other things to look at there, including some beautiful lily pads…

Colors everywhere, even in the water.

…and this guy.

Just doesn’t seem like a comfortable way to nap.

Most of the birds I saw during the day were making noise. That’s how they got my attention, whether they wanted it or not.

Singing her heart out.

But some were pretty camouflaged while looking for good stuff.

What’s that over there?

Until one of them looked up to see who was watching them.

You looking at us?

It was such a beautiful day, this Mother’s Day, I hope you got to see or do something fun, with family or on your own. I realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful place to explore with my mom.

I know she loved it there as much as I did.

I’ll pose for you lady! I brought my own lunch!


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WordPress photo challenge: Sunset

When I saw this week’s prompt I knew immediately the sunset I wanted to show you.

Fire to the south of me.

I was in northern Michigan in December of 2015 when one evening the sky just exploded. To the south it was burning in orange and reds, and to the north the sky was sighing in shades of pink and purple.

Cotton candy to the north of me.

The air was pinkish gold. I couldn’t shoot fast enough, and I never felt the cold.

The waves were tipped in light.

Though I usually limit myself to one photo for a photo challenge, this time I just couldn’t decide. So since the sunset itself was divided between fire and sweet I decided to go with full disclosure.

The islands out at the horizon were crowned by gold and purple.

Picture me turning from south to north and back again, trying not to miss any detail.

It just kept getting better.

It was amazing and I’m so glad to be able to relive it through these shots.

What a place to sit and enjoy the show!

And, as always, I’m glad to share them with you.

A firestorm in the sky.


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She is everywhere

In memory of my mom. She would have loved this Alabama spring.

Wisteria, in bloom all over. It’s invasive, but oh so beautiful.

Dogwood, such a sign of spring.

Redbud, crazy fushia glowing all through the woods.

There’s a whole bank of crowfoot violets at the end of her street.

I see her everywhere, but nowhere as clear as in her beloved flowers and birds near her home on the lake.

Feeding her ducks.