Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Truck Drivers want to spend the holiday with family too

So much of what I write about trucks talks about their affect on us in cars. Trucks plowing into the back of slowed traffic. Trucks representing such a high percentage of crashes in construction zones. Fatigued truck drivers. Distracted truck drivers.

But did you know that driving a commercial truck is the most deadly job in the United States? The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks it as #1 on the list of dangerous jobs in 2018.

In fact, in 2018, 831 truck drivers died on the job. Many of these were truck on truck crashes, or individual trucks going off the road for a variety of reasons. But there were plenty of truck/car crashes too.

In 2018 almost 5,000 people died in truck related crashes. The numbers have been trending up since 2009. The stresses of driving a truck intersecting with the stresses of driving a car never end well for those in the car. And the guilt and grief most truck drivers experience when there’s a crash, particularly a fatal crash, can be overwhelming.

Recently I found a few articles about trucker suicide. The drivers are caught in the middle, between the shippers that want their goods moved quickly, the trucking company that wants the goods shipped profitably, the loading docks that are overbooked, road construction everywhere, and people driving cars much too close — not leaving enough space for trucks to maneuver safely. And to top it off they are paid by the mile. Every delay costs them money.

It’s hard to make a living on the road.

For those of us working on safety issues 2019 was a busy but frustrating year. We pushed four bills, each addressing a different issue, the objective of each to make our roads safer for everyone – truck drivers included. It was hard to feel like we made much progress, politics being what it is today, but we were out there sharing ideas and pushing safety and people on the hill and out in our communities listened. That’s a beginning.

But we all know that every moment we are out there pushing for safety more people, people in cars and people in trucks, are dying. Every delay in our work costs someone his or her life. On average 13 people a day are dying in truck crashes.

Next year, 2020, we’ll be working hard again. If you’re still thinking about donating to our cause, here’s the link. We’d appreciate it. Our work is so important and we can’t do it without your help.

And if you know a truck driver, give them a hug and ask them to stay safe. Spread the word among your family and friends during this holiday season about driving safely around trucks. Remind everyone that safety advocates are working to make the roads safer for everyone, truck drivers included.

Because they want, and deserve, to go home to their families too.

Dedicated to my dad, killed by a tired trucker Dec 23, 2004.

Ten years before.


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Reilly, my love

Katie here.

When mama said she was going to write a tribute to Reilly Cowspot Dog, my fiance, I asked if I could please do it. Because Reilly was, and always will be, my boyfriend, my soulmate.

My guy.

Mama wasn’t sure it was a good idea to let me write it. She said maybe it would be too hard for me, that I’d get all sad and stuff, and of course she’s right. I am truly heartbroken that I won’t see Mr. Reilly on this earth again.

I love him so.

My guy, Mr. Reilly.

But it is precisely because I love him that I want to tell you about him. And even though it makes me sad, it also helps me to remember him and all the good times he had when he was here.

Mama is right when she says you can smile and cry at the same time.

Reilly and me at one of his amazing parks.

Reilly was born an old soul with the deepest, darkest, most beautiful eyes. I’m told he was a good boy right from the start. He never got in trouble even when he was a puppy.

He was a color-headed white sheltie, which means most of him was white, but he had this marking on one side that mama thought looked just like a Micky Mouse head, especially noticeable when he was a little guy.

Mama ‘borrowed’ this picture from Reilly’s blog. Can you see the marking on his side?

Mama says one of the first things she remembers about him was a video where he was walking on a treadmill, getting his walk in when the weather was bad outside. He was so adorable.

When he was in one of his contemplative moods.

He grew into a tall guy, so dark and handsome, with a big, booming voice. Sometimes people were startled when he barked, but they shouldn’t have worried because Reilly loved everyone. His mom said he even liked to go to the vet, and would bark upon arrival to let them all know he was there. Can you imagine being happy to visit the vet?

Lounging on his sofa. (picture taken by his mom.)

And what an adventurer he was! He loved to explore parks, proclaiming each of them ‘his’ once he had visited. Why he and his brother Denny even earned honorary Park Ranger status! Reilly felt it was very important to visit as many of his parks as frequently as possible just to make sure everything was up to his very high standards.

A couple years ago, when a hurricane was threatening his home, he and his family got to go all the way to Alabama to stay at my lake house! I wasn’t there, which makes me sad now, but I was sure happy to see the pictures of Reilly enjoying the cooler Alabama weather out on my deck.

Reilly, happy on my deck in Alabama. (picture by his mom.)

I hear he especially loved the air conditioning vents that I had put in the floors there. They are perfect to cool off warm sheltie tummies and I’m so glad he got to enjoy them.

He climbed my mountain there in Alabama too! Just one more adventure in a life full of adventures for my Reilly.

Reilly on my mountain.  (picture by his mom)

For the last few years Reilly was lucky to live near the ocean, and oh my goodness, how my Reilly loved walking on the beach in the early mornings or late evenings. So many lovely smells. So many birds to chase!

Reilly and his birds.

He loved the salt air blowing in his fur, and the sand between his toes, even the toes of his bad foot. He had the most adorable little boots that he wore to help him walk easier. I thought he looked so sophisticated in them.

Reilly and his little brother Denny on their beach. (picture by their mom.)

And guess what? A couple years ago I got to actually meet the love of my life! I’m sure you all remember that. He was so welcoming, letting me spend time in his home. He shared his beaches and parks and family with me, and even let me eat out of his bowl without arguing!

My first time on a beach, Reilly made me feel a lot safer just because he was there.

My Reilly, he was such a gentleman.

When he wasn’t adventuring or exploring he loved to spend time at home with his folks, lounging on the deck in the winter sunlight, or hanging out in the air conditioned sun-porch during the warmer months. He did that more and more these last few weeks as he became weaker in his illness.

Reilly and his little brother Denny, best friends forever. (Picture by his mom.)

This past Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, his poor body just gave out and he crossed the rainbow bridge, only two weeks after his little brother Denny. Mama took me on a walk the next day and told me the sad news. Of course I wasn’t surprised, as she had warned me that he was very ill. But still.

During my last visit with Reilly and his brother. Isn’t he handsome?

Mama’s eyes are leaking at random times now, and this morning I crawled into bed to wake her up with kisses which I haven’t done in many years. She hugged me tight. She says she is so heartbroken for Reilly’s folks who have lost both their boys this month.

She says there are no words to make this better.

And she says she knows lots of people all over the world were sad to hear the news. Did I tell you my Reilly was famous and had his own blog? He had friends everywhere.

Reilly’s last visit to his beach.(Picture by his mom.)

I feel very honored to be his girl and I know when I go across that bridge he’ll be waiting for me. Cause that’s the kind of gentle boy he is and always will be.

So Mr. Reilly. My love. I will miss you forever and ever. Thank you for being my guy and sharing your space with me and putting up with my princess-ness. Thank you for all the gifts you’ve sent me over the years. Thanks for sleeping next to me when I visited, and taking me to your special places. I loved all of it. And I loved you.

No, that last bit shouldn’t be in past tense. I love you Reilly, and always will. Till we meet again sweetie, run on those beaches up there, and sniff through the woods. Chase a bird and a squirrel for me while you’re waiting. And eat the good treats, just save a few for me.

Your feet, all four of them, are good now, and your legs are strong. Your bark is as loud and as deep as ever; I’m sure you announced yourself when you got over the bridge. Run and bark and keep a watch over Denny and I’ll see you again. One way or another.

Run pain free, my love!

Love forever,

Your girl Katie.

Reilly and Denny, together forever. (picture by their mom.)


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Fifteen years without you

Father’s Day has rolled around again, the fifteenth one without you.

I don’t have any new photos of you to share. I wish I did. I wish I could just snap a few the next time I’m down in Alabama. Photos of you laughing like you used to. Or reading the paper. Or sound asleep on the sofa after a day out on the lake.

Photos of you building something, or fixing something. You used to build stuff for us all the time and you could fix anything.

I wish I could take a picture of you sitting in the back of the church during Mom’s evening organ practice, timing the pieces she planned to play at the next Sunday’s service, letting her know when you thought it would be cool if she played a bit louder.

And I’d love to snap another memory of all of us out in the boat, you driving while one of us skied behind, you grinning. Us too.

Or climbing Smith Mountain and then the fire tour. You were seventy-five and still raring to go all the time. No mountain was too tall for you, no fire tower had too many steps.

I wish I could spend another holiday with you, the family favorites on the dinner table, us all sitting around the table talking and laughing long after the meal was over.

I wish.

But all the wishing in the world won’t make any of that happen, so I have to be satisfied with the memories I have, the snapshots I’ve already collected. But darn, I wish I had some new pictures to share.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven Dad. We all miss you every single day.


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Happy Gotcha Day to me!

Hi everybody, Katie here!

I can’t believe another year has flown by and it’s my Gotcha Day again! Yep, March 31, 2007 was the day I came home with mama and daddy. That’s a really long time ago!

My very first walk in my yard!

I have to say I was one cute puppy! Mama and daddy fell in love with me right away. I thought they were OK too, but back then I wasn’t real sure about new people. In fact I stayed shy for a lot of years, but mama and daddy worked really hard to get me more comfortable with people.

Spring has always been my favorite season.

That’s good because over the years tons of people have wanted to pet me, and now I let them even if they don’t have a treat.

Mama has taken me on lots of adventures and I’m wondering what she has planned for my Gotcha Day. I hope she’s figured something out because to be honest, laying around here at home is getting to be a bit boring even though I like to sleep a lot these days.

Zzzzzzzzzzz…

Last year she completely forgot it was a special day, but that worked out cause we were adventuring down South. This winter we didn’t go anywhere so I think I am due something amazing!

Mama, standing on a big dot is not an adventure!

I will wait patiently to see what she has planned. Well, as patient as any sheltie can be. Which is to say there better be something good waiting for me!

I’m waiting mama…


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Historic Calumet

Come along with us and we’ll take you on a quick trip through Calumet Michigan. What? You say you’ve never heard of Calumet? You didn’t know that at one time, long ago, it was on the short list of cities to be named as the capital for the new state of Michigan?

Downtown Calumet in 2018.

Well, let’s take a tour and I’ll explain more.

Back at the turn of the century (no, not the new century just 18 years old, but the century beginning one hundred and eighteen years ago) Calumet was a mining mecca and making big bucks. In 1900 there were just over 4600 people living in the village, copper was king, and the living was good. At least for some.

The Calumet Theatre was opulent, and still is today.

The opera house, city hall and today’s police department all housed in this historic structure.

The theater has been restored, and you can take a self guided tour for $4.00.

From the balcony, a hint of the beautiful interior.

Aside from theater, Calument also had (and still has)many bars. One of the most famous is Shutie’s. It’s been there a long, long time.

The old fire station reflected in Shutie’s window.

Inside you’ll find the original wooden bar, a giant and beautiful stained glass fixture hanging above, and a mirror that reflects a huge mural painted in recent years that stretches along the opposite wall.

Just think of all the people who have bellied up to the bar here over the years.

We stopped in to warm our toes and fingers with a drink. For old times sake.

Warming up for our next adventure!

Today there are just about 700 people living in the village, a steady decline in population over the years as mining activity dried up and people left to find work. Tourism is a main source of income now, but still the area struggles.

Only the pigeons live here now.

So much has been lost to disrepair.

These were once fancy apartments.

Still, much has been preserved too.

The park service works out of this building now. Beautiful stonework from the 1900s.

I have several images of the archeticture in Calumet to share, but I’m in a hotel with slow and unreliable internet. So I’ll save those for another post. We’ll be traveling tomorrow, on our way home. But when I can I’ll show you remnants of the copper mining industry itself.

And yes, you’ll get to see a few (or more) images of today’s trip up the Keweenaw Peninsula and Lake Superior too.

Eventually.

The old fire house.


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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.


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The comfort of Mahler more than 100 years after his death

Saturday evening found my husband and I in Ann Arbor with my Aunt listening to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D major performed by the Ann Arbor Symphony.

I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of listening to the long symphony, over an hour and twenty minutes, with no intermission and no chance to change gears if it wasn’t something I enjoyed. I thought longingly of the concert last month filled with Dvorak and Gershwin. But I figured this one would be good for me.

And it was – in an unexpected way.

You see Saturday morning was the horrific mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Throughout the day I watched updates and wondered, again, how such things continue to happen in our country.

By Saturday evening I was overwhelmingly sad.

Music Director Arie Lipsky gave his typical lecture prior the the concert, explaining bits and pieces of the four movements, giving us a better understanding of the composer’s life and this particular piece. It’s thought to be Mahler’s goodbye, perhaps a foreshadowing of his fatal heart ailment, but, Maestro Lipsky said, the final interpretation of the meaning behind the music would be up to the performers, and ultimately us, the listening audience.

And there he paused, stared down at his score, then looked up with pain in his eyes and quietly dedicated the evening’s performance to the murdered members of the Squirrel Hill Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My own eyes filled with tears. And as we settled into our seats to hear the music I wondered what my interpretation would be. What would I hear in this long piece on this, such a sad day?

And, it turns out, for me the music was intertwined in the events of the day.

As someone who has experienced the unexpected news about a violent death of a family member, all I could hear in this music was the raw emotion of the families left behind on this horrible Saturday morning. It was as if the music was describing the road each of them will be traveling as they move through their grief in the days and years ahead.

The first movement, Andante comodo, started out innocently, peacefully, much like the lives of the parishioners themselves as they settled into the service, like those people still in traffic on their way to meet friends and family as they probably did every weekend. But about two minutes into the piece there came a foreboding feeling.

Something was wrong.

At 5:45 into the music I could hear the news being spread, tension built, shock, disbelief and confusion were all being felt. The rest of the movement took me through the roller coaster of those first moments, hours and days after the event, the music filled with layers of rage and grief followed by bits of sweet memories and longing, always overcome with the deep swells of pain and sorrow.

The second movement, Im Tempo eines, represented, for me, a time in the future when family members have given themselves permission to be happy again. It started out with a lighthearted, though clumsy, dance. The family was, rightly so, a bit rusty in their happiness. But soon enough the music began to change tempo, to speed up and become a bit manic, as the nightmare of reality interrupts even the simple joy of dance.

The third movement, Rondo-Burleske, is all about the chaos, rage, and disbelief inherent in grief with an almost nightmarish circus motif. It was loud and fast from the very first notes, allowing for no contemplation, only emotion. And the interweaving themes kept pounding at our emotions until the abrupt end which forced a collective gasp from wide-eyed audience members.

There was a longer pause, then, between the third and fourth movement, Adagio, as the musicians seemed to collect themselves, to adjust their mindset from the frenetic third to the quiet resolution of this last movement.

And here, in the fourth, was where my tears fell again. For it was here that I felt the resignation and acceptance, the finality of the loss. The soft tones were contemplative, but there was a hint of joy too, hidden between the layers of deep pain, in the pools of grief.

The joy came from finally realizing that our loved ones, lost to violence, are safe now. And though it’s hard, so very hard, not to have them here with us, it became clear, as the last distant notes faded into the night air, that they are truly and forever home.

I felt a bit silly as I surreptitiously wiped the tears from my cheeks, but I noticed a few others doing the same. And then I stood, along with the rest of the house, to applaud my appreciation

So that’s my interpretation of Mahler’s ninth, heard on this particular difficult day in the history of our country.

If you would like to hear some of this Mahler piece, but don’t have over an hour to devote, I recommend listening to a few minutes of each of the first three movements and then to the entire fourth movement.

I trust Mahler will bring you a similar feeling of hope and peace.


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Still trying to veg out

I get tired of trying new recipes looking for that great vegan meal. Some weeks go by that I don’t try any. Still, I believe that a plant based diet is healthy and know I need to try harder.

The finished dish.

My poor husband has endured a couple years of experiments; I know it’s been this long because my Facebook memories show vegan attempts from at least two years ago. Sometimes Facebook is useful because I’ll see a recipe that was good from way back then that I’d forgotten all about it.

This week I was flipping through the Forks over Knives cookbook and thought the “Quick and Easy Thai Vegetable Stew” looked good. I added a few things to my grocery list for the week, notably coconut extract and Thai red curry paste. I had everything else in the house so I put it on this week’s dinner agenda.

Tonight I made it.

First of all, I don’t know what about this is quick and easy when you have to chop up the onion, the vegetables, the cilantro, mint and garlic. You also have to grate fresh ginger and zest and juice a lime.

Lots of stuff to prepare prior to making this dish.

I guess after you get all that done the actual cooking is fast and easy. But that’s the problem I have with most vegan cooking. Prep just takes awhile.

So how did it turn out? It’s supposed to be a main dish, and it’s suppose to serve four. Maybe this is why vegans are skinny. I put it over rice to make it more substantial, and it basically served three even that way.

Onion, ginger, garlic, lime and Thai red curry paste.

My husband ate leftover chicken enchiladas from the other night and used this dish as a side. It certainly looked like a side.

It tasted fine…except for that darn cilantro. I try to like cilantro but I just don’t. The recipe wanted 1/2 a cup of chopped cilantro, I (luckily) only had a little bit, and that’s all I used. Still, it was pervasive in the final taste. I need to remember that I don’t like it and not let it mess up an otherwise OK recipe. I guess I don’t know if I should just leave it out entirely or use parsley as a substitute.

And for the mixed vegetables I used what I had in the house, broccoli and carrots. Next time I’d use equally dense vegetables because the broccoli cooked through way before the carrots did and got sort of mushy. And I think I’d like it with water chestnuts, snow peas and maybe fresh green beans. Maybe some sliced fresh mushrooms thrown in near the end. Or peas. Maybe all of that.

Almost done.

So I’d say it was a sort of win. I’ll make it again some day, just differently. Guess that would make it a totally different dish!

Flexibility. Yep that’s what makes a vegan diet work. And persistence, lots and lots of persistence.

Mint and cilantro.


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Getting lost in the Grand Canyon

Taken through the windshield of my stopped car. Because it was so pretty and so was the music.

This morning I went to a town several miles up the road to buy some birdseed. We have lots of feeders and my finches have been eating me out of house and home.

When I got back in the car after loading 60 pounds of assorted seed into the back the radio was playing something that sounded familiar. I glanced down at the screen and smiled.

The Grand Canyon Suite was playing, and though I couldn’t remember much of it, I knew it was something I had enjoyed years ago when I was a kid.

As it was playing I was trying to remember if it sounded familiar because I had played it with my high school band. Still…I didn’t think that was it.

And then the movement with the mules and donkeys clip clopping down into the canyon came on and I had a sudden image of a green and white portable record player and I remembered. I’d had this piece on vinyl years ago and I’d loved it.

I turned the radio up and took the back roads home. By the time the piece ended I had no idea where I was, but it sure had been a beautiful drive.

Wonder where that record ended up.

The light was beautiful this morning.