Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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.


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Just call me a mountain dog (but don’t call me late for supper)

It’s really pretty up here mama!


Katie here!

Guess what? Yesterday I got to climb Smith Mountain with my mama! I told her it was about time cause she’s already been to the top of the mountain twice this trip and I haven’t been up there at all!

Come on with me, this is a cake walk!

Why last year at this time I’d already scaled that mountain three different ways! But mama says I’m slower this trip and besides it was sort of warm out and she worries about me you know.

I’ll wait for you right here mama

So we took it real slow and every time I looked at her she was offering me water. Which I took by the way, I am not a foolish sheltie, no siree.

Let’s get into the shade mama!

Still, I had a really good time and we spent a lot of the climb in the shade, hiding among the long leaf pines and the big rocks.

Mama just loves these big pine cones. I have no idea why. I thought they were sort of boring and not worthy of my time.

Do these look at all interesting to you guys?

We finally got to the top and there were lots of young people there, and a couple dogs too. All the dogs ran up and down the stairs; obviously they are not royalty. I made mama carry me.

They’re trying to get a selfie. The boy dog would rather look at me. Of course.

We found this place that used to be the picnic area when the mountaintop was a ranger station. Can’t you just imagine the rangers out here in the evening roasting something yummy for dinner? I checked out the fire pit area very carefully and unfortunately there were no leftovers.

What do you mean you forgot our picnic mama!!

I thought this rock was interesting too and mama asked if I’d sit on it, cause it (and I) was pretty. I said no way mama, and even when she put a treat up there I wouldn’t get on it. I have my limits you know.

I’ll smell it but I’m not getting on it. Nope, not happening.

Finally we got to the top and mama took the obligatory picture of me with the tower just so you all know I really went all the way up there. Not up the tower you understand, just up the mountain. Mama said no way no how was she carrying me up that tower. She said I wouldn’t have liked it up there anyway. She’s probably right.

People would believe me without proof, mama.

Then we started back down the mountain but I didn’t want to go! I liked it up there! So we sat around a bunch more and she took some pictures of pretty things that were not me. Like this orange rock.

Not getting on that rock either mama.

And this crowfoot violet. Mama says that her mom used to look for these all the time. Mama says she’s seen quite a few this year and they make her smile. Whatever mama.

Reminds mama of her mom.

Once I got her moving down the mountain we made pretty good time. Near the bottom I was even trotting. It was time for supper don’t you know and I have a rule: Never delay the supper of a Princess.

Get a move on mama!

Signing off for now, your mountaineering Princess Katie.

Next time let’s go in the morning when it’s cooler mama!


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Best of Carson

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Khalil Gibran

Hi there!

For many years one of the joys of spending time here at the lake was a neighboring dog named Carson. We’ve watched him grow up from a soft fluffy bundle of joyous energy …

OK, I’ll hold still for your photo lady. But be quick about it!

…to a soft fluffy sophisticated man about town of eleven.

You’ve been taking my picture for years! I just keep looking better!

Carson liked to visit everyone in the neighborhood, and he seemed to know when we were in town, showing up by the door to check in with us, sometimes meeting us at the car when we unloaded luggage. Each time he asked for an ear rub or a tummy tickle.

That’s a good spot lady!

He wouldn’t decline a treat if you happened to have one on you…

nom nom nom

…but mostly, for Carson, it was about a little loving, a little play. And the lake.

My favorite place to be – my lake!

His favorite thing to do was to walk along the shoreline, knee or chest deep in the water, hunting for those pesky minnows. When he found some he’d pounce on them and then grin.

There’s one over THERE!

All summer you could find him in the water. And year-round you could find him on a neighbor’s porch, getting some loving.

Hey Katie-girl…want to PLAY?

Katie wasn’t too sure about him visiting us. It wasn’t that she was afraid of him. But he was so big…and when he barked it was with one deep baritone WOOF! She always jumped.

She just didn’t know what to make of him, but the rest of us? We loved Carson. It didn’t matter that he didn’t belong to us, we all just loved him.

Is he still back there mama?

Carson was most famous for being the softest dog any of us had ever touched. And he smelled good. Yes he was a dog, and yes he loved to wade in the lake, the muddier the better, but he always started each day smelling good.

You still taking pictures lady?

I imaged he took a shower with his person each morning because he always used to smell like Irish Spring soap. This last week he smelled like some other shampoo, but he still smelled too pretty to be a boy.

Everybody loved Carson, the dog that smelled so good.

Sunset is my time to head for home. See you tomorrow lady!

Sadly Carson crossed the rainbow bridge this week, suddenly and without warning. I’m so glad he stopped by a couple times since I’ve been here this trip so that I got some Carson loving.

My last Carson loving.

But man. We are all so going to miss him. I look for him every time I leave the house, he was so often sitting on my porch. I look for him along the lake shore. I listen for his bark.

We’ll always remember you sweetie!

I am more than sad. But I’m trying to remember that I was lucky to know him.

Somehow it’s not enough.

Who wouldn’t love this face?


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When a screwdriver turns into a walk in the park

I’m at the lake house, enjoying the view and the weather and what appears to be spring happening all around me. But evening comes early in this part of the country and during the long dark hours I wander the house, noticing stuff that needs to be done.

Like cleaning — especially those places that aren’t automatically done during a regular visit.

So I decide that the cold air return needs to be spiffed up. I doubt it’s been cleaned in the almost fourteen years since mom and dad left us the house. It’s not something a person would normally pay attention to, but after two weeks of living here, it’s moved to the top of my to-do list.

I look at it more closely and figure I’m going to need a phillips-head screwdriver to get it off the wall. We still have dad’s workshop set up in the basement so I traipse downstairs to search.

Hmmmm….where would I find the right screwdriver?

There’s a lot to choose from, and I quickly find what should be the perfect tool.

Back up the stairs I tromp, petting Katie-girl who is waiting anxiously at the top, unsure of where her mama went. I get down on the floor to begin loosening the screws. But darn! The screws need a flat screwdriver. I don’t know what I was looking at before.

There’s one of everything here.

Shaking my head I get myself up off the floor (which isn’t all that easy these days) and stomp back down the stairs to the workshop. I put the phillips-head back in it’s appointed spot and grab a flat screwdriver.

At the top of the steps Katie waits patiently, wondering what in the world mama is doing now.

Back on the floor again I get the first three screws out; both sides and the top of the grate came out pretty easily. But the screw on the bottom, right down at the floor, is smaller. And, as I peer at it my head flush with the floor, and through my trifocals, I see that it needs a phillips-head screwdriver.

“Hey Katie,” I say, “Want to go to the park?”

Parks are good mama!


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Washington in review

It was unexpected and unplanned, but our trip to Washington DC was important. I meant to write on Tuesday evening, after we watched the morning confirmation hearing on the nominated Administrator to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). But after the hearing we spent the afternoon in meetings with ours and other Senators offices and by the time we limped back to the hotel I was too tired to write.

And I meant to write about our experiences on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday night after our appointments on the Hill but each evening turned into a night of note writing from the day’s work and preparation for the day ahead. No time to write about the experience for you.

And now here it is Sunday night and the passion I felt during the week is ebbing and though I’m not as tired as I was, I somehow feel reluctant to try to capture it all, to put it down, because I don’t think I can make you understand just what it all means.

But I’ll try.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT). It issues and enforces regulations that rule the way trucks move across the country. They set the hours that can be driven, monitor safety issues like sleep and the mechanics of the vehicles, and handle many other things. They are very important to our work at the Truck Safety Coalition.

After almost a year of this Administration an Administrator for the FMCSA has finally been nominated. We at the TSC wanted to hear what he had to say, so we attended the confirmation hearing. Mr. Martinez said a lot of the right things. He comes from New Jersey, heading their Department of Motor Vehicles. He doesn’t know anything about trucks, but he seems to be committed to safety. So I’m willing to give him a chance to show us with actions.

After the hearing my husband and I, along with a staff member of TSC, met with the transportation staff at each of my Senators’ offices. We talked about things that have been left hanging at the DOT since the beginning of the year, other things in the works that have been repealed by the current Administration.

The rest of the week was spent in a similar fashion, going from meeting to meeting in either Senate or House offices, looking for support of our safety causes. We talked about the successful side underride crash tests. We are looking for support of legislation to make underride guards mandated. And we found people that are interested in the developments. It’s progress.

At each meeting I pull out the picture of my dad, Bill, and the picture of what his car looked like after his crash. I look into dad’s eyes and silently promise him that we won’t give up. We won’t give up even though I’ve been making these trips to Washington D.C. for thirteen years. Sometimes multiple times a year. In one of our last meetings of this week I told the staffer that my dad comes with me on every trip to D.C. The staffer looked confused but dad and I smiled at each other.

My husband and I ate dinner one evening in the lower level of Union Station, near the Capital. Tired, and standing just outside the diner sliding out of my dress shoes and into my running shoes, feet aching, I noticed some signs just above the counter where people were enjoying their dinner.

“Excellent food.” ” Bill eats here.”

Yes, why yes he did. Because he’s always with me when I’m in D.C. And everywhere else too. We made some progress during this past week. We talked to lots of people, even some that are usually on the other side of our arguments. There’s interest in saving lives on both sides of the aisle.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you apprised of developments. There may come a time when I’ll need you to call your Representative and/or Senator and ask for their support on proposed legislation. Meanwhile we’ll keep fighting the fight, talking about safety and trucks and our roads to everyone that will listen.

Dad was always all about safety. He still is. I guess I am too.