Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Smiling on a hot summer evening

The county fair is back. The fairground is in my tiny town, a little over a mile from the house. When Katie and I camp in the backyard during fair week we can hear the monster trucks, the announcer, the fireworks, the roar of the crowd.

What do you think is the best part about a fair…the food? Or the rides?

The noise doesn’t bother me, it’s only for one week and it’s the epitome of summer in the midwest. I have so many memories of the county fair, not this one, but the one we used to go to when we were kids.

Food? Or rides?

Which pretty much is exactly like the one I wandered this week. Big barns full of rabbits, goats, chickens, cows, and sheep waiting with their young person for their turn in the ring to be judged. Another barn full of sewing, knitting, canning, flower arrangements, and artwork, each a project of some young person, some with ribbons already attached.

Maybe the best thing is the games, though nobody really wins anything. Do they?

I was a 4-H kid in the 60s. I knit, mostly because I hated sewing which seemed to be my other option. Each year I entered a misshappen sweater at the fair. I think sometimes I won a ribbon, but I don’t remember.

The excitment that only the young can experience on these things.

I also don’t remember riding the midway rides, though I’m sure we did. We probably had some number of rides budgeted. We sure didn’t have free reign to ride as many and as often as we wanted.

I bet their hearts were beating fast while they swung in the darkness.

This year I noticed that there were bracelets available that let you into everything at the fair. All the rides, the shows, and who knows what else. They were $25.00 each.

How many funnel cakes can you buy with $25?

I don’t think I’d be able to ride enough to make that purchase worthwhile. Not without throwing up at least once. And there’s no way my folks would have sprung for a wrist band, even if there had been such a thing back then, for all four of us kids.

The Sizzler sizzled into the night.

Nope, I’m sure we could pick out one ride that we wanted to do and that was probably it.

Maybe the best part of a fair is just spending time with your friends.

But I do remember a booth where you could drop paint onto a spinning canvas, then you got to take your creation home. I had that painting for years. That was probably 50 years ago and it’s the most vivid memory I have of the county fair growing up. It still makes me smile.

I think I could ride this one.

We don’t go to the county fair every year these days, even though it is right in our town. And of course last year there was no fair.

Or maybe not.

So it’s been a long time since I’ve gone. But this year it seemed like a celebration of the return of something fundamental, and I looked forward to going back for a walk around.

There’s no calories in cotten candy. Right?

Wednesday evening turned out to be the moment, and I arrived just as the sun was going down on a hot afternoon.

This ride might be safe for me.

Most of the families with little kids looked exhausted. Many of them were leaving, but the young people were just arriving. I was there to mess around with the camera once it got dark and the midway lit up.

At least you could get your vegetables.

It’s not a big fair, it takes only minutes to see everything. But with each round I made I saw different images. I should have had a tripod, but I didn’t want to haul anything extra.

Ride this one before you eat any of the fair food.

All of these shots were handheld, most of the time letting the camera choose the ISO. Sometimes I delibertaly made the exposure longer to blur the lights. That was the most fun, just to see what came through.

Add the moon and it was a pretty special night.

Mostly I was there to have some fun, just like all the rest of the folks standing in lines for rides and food. It’s just my idea of fun involves more about the camera and less hanging upside down from a midway attraction.

Round and around they go.

But if I was 50 years younger I might just have tried those flying swings. I think even my stomach could have handled that.

Best view at the fair.


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Time warp

Sometimes I’ll read a blog post I wrote and then note at the bottom the links to similar posts, and I’ll click on one and read the post and then pick another link at the bottom and click on that and read and so on and so on…and time moves on and the next thing you know I’ve spent an hour or more back in time remembering.

Whitefish Bay

Such a thing happened to me today, and eventually I wound up in 2014 celebrating my 1500th blog post. I read that relatively short entry and thought how much life has changed from 2014, but how much my life is the same today too.

I enjoy blogging because it connects me to all of you, plus I have an excuse to take pictures. But I also like that it’s a history of my life. I’ve often wondered when we did something, or what happened during a particular trip, and all I have to do is go check the blog.

The mouth of the Hurricane River

I guess it’s something of a public diary.

Anyway, today I checked to see how many blog posts I’ve written, but I can’t find that statistic. Seems there’s much more about how many people are clicking on your blog than anything about what you’ve done. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. But if I had 1500 posts in 2014 I imagine the number is double that now.

On the shores of Sable Lake

Regardless…it sure was fun bopping around in the past. You should try it on your own blogs. I think you’ll end up smiling at the memories you have stored there.

As I headed home she wished me safe travels

PS: The images here are random things I shot on my camping trip. They didn’t make it into a blog post, but I thought they deserved to be seen.


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Every day is Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, dad.

On this day when people everywhere are celebrating their dads, I celebrate you.

1953

I wonder what you’d look like today, at age 91. I can’t quite imagine you any other way than how I’ve always known you. You never seemed to change much, you never aged.

1959

But you will always be 75, the age you were when you were stolen from us.

I know I’m lucky we had you that long. I know plenty of families where people have been stolen or injured much earlier than 75. I know plenty of people whose parents were taken when they were much younger than I was.

1980

I know parents whose children were taken. That’s beyond anything I can even imagine.

1990

So I know we were lucky. .

2003

But I can’t help but wish you were here today.

Every day is Father’s Day, dad, because we all think about you every day.

But, I know you know that.


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Remembering a neighbor

Yesterday I was wandering near one of the towns where I grew up. Since I was so close I visited a local cemetary more to see the lake I lived on than to visit anyone there. It was a cold, windy day, so the lake was choppy and uninviting. It seemed a little surreal to be parked on the shores of the lake, gazing out at the small islands where we used to take off and land on water skies more than 50 years ago. The lake seemed so big when we were growing up, but looked so small yesterday.

Though I didn’t drive by our old house, I did think a bit about the neighbors we had growing up. And somehow, no reason why that I could determine, I wondered whatever happened to a woman who lived next door with her husband and adult son. I knew the two men had died, I’d kept in contact with her for a long time but lost track of her years ago.

So when I got home I googled her and smiled when I read in her obituary that she had lived to be 101. As I read about her life, her family, her accomplishments, memories of her energy and smile felt like hugs. And then I noticed the day of her birth, way back in 1909.

She was born on April 19th, the very day that I’d, for no reason at all, been thinking about her enough to make me look her up.

Happy Birthday Mrs. Holsted. You were a wonderful neighbor to our house full of gregarious kids. I hope you had cake yesterday, with your husband and son. Thanks for popping up in my memories.

You made me smile.


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Sixteenth anniversary

Early in the morning, sixteen years ago today, dad went home to be with mom.

Studying a map. But there’s no roadmap to heaven.

We said, sadly, that she sent a semi-truck to collect him; she’d been gone five months and they hadn’t been apart for that long since the early days of their marriage when dad got drafted into the army.

1954, he’s in the army now.

So today my family and I think about him. And them. And wish it all could have been different.

1961, the whole family.

But there is comfort knowing they are together for always.

The way I like to think of them, laughing and happy.

When mom came down and collected him that morning, sixteen years ago, I imagine he was glad to see her but worried about leaving all of us.

1990, still had fourteen years of marriage ahead of them.

So I’ll remind him, you both raised us well, rest easy; we’re doing just fine.

See you both again someday.

50th wedding anniversary on Lake Michigan.


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Comfort music

Christmas is right around the corner, and people are talking about how they’re not ready, have so much more to do, cooking, shopping, wrapping. I smile in sympathy but I don’t really get it. Especially this year.

This barn and other outbuildings are on land that is for sale, zoned commercial. So it won’t be here for much longer. I’m glad I got an image to preserve it.

Even without covid my family is small and doesn’t travel that much. We don’t do so much for Christmas anymore, though Thanksgiving is a big deal. I mailed the couple of boxes I needed to more than a week ago. I bought the ingredients for our simple Christmas supper last week.

The barns on this particular barn hunt came in many colors.

The thing I’m looking forward to most is a Christmas nap. I wonder if that shows my age? Still, it can get a little sad when the world seems hyped up and you aren’t. So yesterday I decided to go out looking for a few barns. Sort of a comfort photo hunt of sorts.

Not something you see every day, a blue barn.

And along the way I listened to XM radio, station 73, Traditional Holiday, humming along to music that my folks would have listened to back in the 50s, and some that we listed to in the 60s and 70s too.

I liked the red tractor in front of this red barn. I turned around to get it.

I remember my mom commenting that she wished they played Christmas music for awhile after the big day because she didn’t have time before it to listen. I feel lucky that I have all the time in the world to enjoy these oldies.

I want to go back when the light is better and see if I can figure out what was painted on this barn.

People like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and Jo Stafford, groups like The Four Seasons and The Supremes, instrumentals from the likes of The London Pops, Percy Faith and Oscar Peterson.

It was a gray and rainy day. This farm seemed to sit so naturally in the landscape.

I heard so many pieces that we’ve played at our own holiday concerts, and I could imagine, and remember what it felt like to play again. The music did what music is intended to do, lifted my spirts and I arrived home after a couple of hours of Christmas music and barns smiling.

My favorite capture. A photogenic green barn!

I hope you are all smiling too, no matter what your holidays will look like. Here’s to spending time together, in person if it’s safe, virtually if it’s not. And here’s to looking forward to 2021. May it bring us all more smiles than frowns.

Classic


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In preparation of Giving Tuesday

It’s become a bigger and bigger thing, Giving Tuesday. Put on by Facebook, it’s a day when nonprofits post about their organizations and ask for friends and familiy, and friends of their friends and family, to give a little to help. There are all sorts of nonprofits, and each one has a worthy story to tell.

Long time readers know our story, but we’re coming up on the anniversary and tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. It seems like a good time to tell it again.

In 2004, early in the morning of December 23rd, my dad was killed by a sleepy semi driver while on his way to the Atlanta airport with a ticket in his pocket to fly north for the holidays.

That’s the short and shocking version. The long version is just as shocking once you realize how preventable dad’s and so many other crashes are.

After dad was killed, and while we were trying to get our footing, someone found the Truck Safety Coalition online, and through them we found a truck crash lawyer who knew exactly what to do to protect our rights. Suddenly we had help.

And once all of that was settled some of us found that we wanted to help other families too, so we joined the Truck Safety Coalition to talk to folks who were facing the same sorts of challenges we did. We have two goals; we provide support to families who are just as shocked as we were and we educate lawmakers about the dangers on our roads. By doing both we provide a place for people just like us, living with unimaginable pain, to use their grief to make our roads safer.

It’s complicated, I know. Nothing is black and white, every regulation has unintended consequences. But every family I’ve talked to in the sixteen years since dad was killed wants the same thing we did way back then – we just want fewer families to have to go through the loss and grief we went through.

Just over 5,000 people died in truck-related crashes in 2019. Over 125,000 people were injured and trends are continuing to go up. Every time we hold our Sorrow to Strength conference I meet new families who are in the middle of crushing pain.

There are always new families.

Truck crashes are not Republican or Democrat, they don’t recognize any particular religion or faith, don’t care about race, ethnicity or gender. Truck crash survivors and families of victims who come to us for help become members of our truck safety family, and we know that within our family we are understood and supported. Even sixteen years after the crash.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. I’ll have a post up on Facebook asking for donations to CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) which along with P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) form the Truck Safety Coalition. Both CRASH and P.A.T.T are 501c3 nonprofits, and this year because of a Covid Relief Bill (the CARE Act), everyone is allowed to use up to a $300 charitable donation as a tax deduction even if you don’t normally get to deduct charitable gifts.

So I’m hoping some (OK a lot) of you will consider making that donation. This year we have two anomymous donors who are matching the first $10K we raise on Tuesday. So your $1.00 donation will actually give us $3.00!

Thank you for reading this, and looking at pictures of my dad. My brothers and sister and I miss him every single day, and always will. Sadly we know there are thousands of new families, just in 2020, that are missing their family members, or dealing with traumatic injuries too.

Please help us help them.


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Anniversary smiles

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.

Lots of years ago, when we were much younger.

We got married in the town I grew up in, in the church we attended every Sunday when I was a kid, even though I hadn’t lived there for more then 15 years myself.

Who could have guessed all that was ahead of us when we took those vows and cut that cake. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to get through it all alone.

It wasn’t a very big wedding, but it must have been legit because we’re still married — thirty years later.

And that makes us smile.

My sister and me.


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Another Father’s Day

When your dad dies you’re in the moment of loss and you don’t really consider how permanent it is. But dead is forever and that’s a very long time.

In the beginning you get through each day, each moment really, one moment at a time and you try to accomplish all the things you have to do, from arranging a funeral to cancelling his next doctor appointment, and you don’t think about what it will be like sixteen Father’s Days later.

But I can tell you what it’s like. It’s like the first one, just a little softer around the edges. Less the slice of a knife, more the dull ache of a bruise.

Dad would have turned 91 last February. There’s no guarantee he’d still be alive today, but I know for certain that a sleepy truck driver took several years from him — and us — sixteen years ago when he failed to see dad stopped on the freeway ahead.

A young man with big dreams

I wonder if that driver ever thinks of dad. Or us. I think of him often; he’s a father too, and I am sure there will be some Father’s Day thing happening for him this weekend. I don’t begrudge him that. I just wish…I wish he had pulled over when he got sleepy that morning.

I know you all expected some sort of uplifting Father’s Day post, but that’s not where I am this year. Grief ebbs and flows, but the work remains.

In fact I’m working on some truck safety stuff over the weekend. In some ways that’s in honor of my dad. I guess, for me, just about every day is Father’s Day as we fight to improve safety on our roads. Can’t give up, though sometimes it feels futile.

I like to think of him up in heaven sitting with some of your folks who have gone on too, sitting around in easy chairs telling stories about all of us, sharing experiences. Smiling a lot. Don’t see why this isn’t possible, after all, most of us met over the internet, just as unlikely as our folks meeting in the afterlife, right?

Anyway, now I’m rambling. I hope those of you that still have your dad here get the chance to give him a hug or a call or a card. Sometimes dads get lost in our busy worlds, but time is not infinite. Don’t waste any of it.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. No matter where you are.

A new dad.


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I’m turning into an old fart

When my brothers and sister and I were growing up we pretty much ran around the neighborhood, the woods or spent our time out on the lake. But there was one place we didn’t run, and that was our next door neighbor’s yard. Though our neighbor had two kids of his own he wasn’t really kid friendly.

We weren’t allowed to walk across his yard to play with kids that lived on the other side of him. We weren’t allowed to skate on the part of our lake that was behind his house. We couldn’t even touch his grass in order to take his dog back home when it wandered over into our yard to visit our guinea pig. (Robbie the collie and Barney the guinea pig had a very strong friendship.)

That was all fifty years ago.

From our gardens.

This week I found, on our lawn next to our driveway, a large deposit from what must have been a very big dog. I was incensed. This is not the first time we’ve been the recipient of doggie gifts that are not Katie’s. I’ve ignored it when it’s at the further corners of our yard which is bordered on two sides by roads. But a month or so ago the deposit was left right next to our mailbox. And this week it was right next to our driveway.

It was sort of in my face, and I found myself turning into my childhood neighbor, but with no one around to yell at.

So I made a sign, and posted it right next to the offending pile. It said “Who left this? NOT OK! Pick up after your dog.”

The porch pots are vivid.

Of course no one admitted to being the offending human. I don’t blame the dog, though if it could read I’m sure it would take it’s business across the street to avoid me. I picked up the pile after a couple days, and put the sign away. I’m sure I’ll need it again.

But that incident alone didn’t make me think I was turning into an old fart. Oh no, there’s more.

Yesterday I was moving mulch from a very big pile which is sitting in the driveway, to a sweet little spot in our front yard under the trees, and nestled in among the hosta.

Gonna need a bigger wheelbarrow.

I could feel the drop in temperature every time I tipped a wheelbarrow of mulch onto the ground under the trees. A little microclimate exists there, so cool and green. I thought how nice it would be to have a chair there, a place to sit and watch the world go by on the street.

Which solidified the old fart notion.

Our elderly neighbors (defined elderly because they are older than me) used to sit in chairs in their garage and watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood. They have a lovely deck on the back of the house, looking into their pretty backyard edged in woods, but I don’t think they ever sat back there. No, they sit in their garage on sunny afternoons and watch the street, and us.

And now, here I am, thinking how nice it would be to sit in the front yard and watch the street.

Cool relief.

Yep I’m an old fart, not going to apologize. I figure I can sit under my tree in a comfy chair on my nice soft mulch and watch people walking their dogs down my street. And if they or their dogs get too close I’ll be able to tell them to get off my grass.

Somewhere in the cosmos I think my childhood neighbor would finally laugh.