Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The thing about Katie

Dearest Katie,

The thing is, I thought you’d live forever. For so many months during your last year we thought we had it figured out. We were a great team, you, me and your daddy, on a strict schedule of meals and pills and head rubs. You were so good about eating the food you didn’t love, taking your pills in peanut butter, going outside to do your jobs so we could photograph and analyze your poo, even coming out of the bedroom in the middle of each night on your own to get your blue pill from your dad, right on schedule.

Until suddenly it didn’t work anymore.

And now when I wake up in the early morning, not because you’re huffing at me to go outside, but because the morning light shines in my eyes, my face is wet with tears and my very first thought is of you. And when I go to sleep at night, not because you insist it’s time to go to bed, but because I’ve worn myself out, my face is damp with tears and my last thought is of you.

And all through the day, when I glance out into our yard, where you lay on a blanket in the shade of a tree under blue skies with white puffy clouds and a soft early summer breeze, my eyes fill again. Sometimes I go stand out there, the place you left us, and silently call for you. I want you to come home. My head is filled with your lasts. Last walk, last time sleeping in the tent, last time at your park, last….everything.

But that’s not what I want to remember.

I want to remember all the wonderful things you did, we did together. I want to remember your days of running with a big grin on your face, and all the thousands of times you posed for a picture, and your joy in meals and ice cubes, and how you loved to catch snowballs and frisbees and run through tunnels and leap over legs and jumps and just how joyful you were, how very ready to go on the next adventure. Always ready.

You remember, don’t you, Katie-girl, how you weren’t sure you wanted to come home with daddy and me when we first met you? How you hid behind a chair when you were left alone with us for a moment that day we went to pick you up? How I came and got you and held you and you snuggled your head into my neck and in that instant you were ours. And we were yours.

Do you remember that first night at home? When you were so exhausted by all the change that you fell asleep upside down on the sofa? You were so tiny. But when you woke up you were a little tornado, always into something. If I didn’t know where you were, if you were quiet, I knew for certain that you were doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing. And loving every sneaky moment of it.

I was in graduate school and you didn’t allow me to read. Your entire life I called you my anti-reading dog because you always felt that if I sat down I should be focused on you. You napped while I did chores, washed dishes, clothes, or cleaned. If I was moving then all was right with your world and you’d settle in on one of your many beds and watch me until you fell asleep. But if I sat down, then all bets were off and I should be playing with you. No reading allowed.

And when you were young, if you really wanted attention and I was ignoring you, perhaps reading on the sofa, you’d leap up, walk up my body, stand with your little feet on my chest and bark at me. The only thing that kept you from continuing to bark was if I massaged your shoulders. You loved that. Your little feet would begin to hurt me, and I’d move you slightly as I massaged, but you’d move your feet right back, insisting on more attention.

As you got older we did more things together. Remember how much you loved doggie school? Even when we were doing obedience and you got bored with all the heeling and sitting and standing and waiting and coming, you still loved school. Mostly because of the treats. And, of course, all the attention you got because you were so beautiful. Everybody loved you. Everybody wanted to give you treats, but you’d only take treats from me. You’d sniff their offerings and then, as a true Princess, you’d turn your head away. You broke so many hearts, little girl.

You got your CD title in AKC and your Rally Excellent, and then we both retired. You weren’t excited about competing, all that waiting around, and your mom couldn’t get those rally signs down anyway. Your job was to follow mama around the ring, not your fault if mama couldn’t read. You tried a bit of agility, but didn’t like waiting for your turn. A princess, should, always go first, right? Plus there was the scary teeter, and don’t even talk about that chute thing!

And then your mama introduced you to scent work. Man, you loved that game! Sniff a box, get a treat! How perfect was that. You loved, loved, LOVED going to scent work school! You couldn’t wait for it to be your turn, you pulled on your leash the entire evening, begging your mama to let you get into the ring and find the right box! I felt bad that we didn’t pursue it further, little girl, you loved it so. But we were traveling more, remember? That made up for missing classes, right?

Remember all the camping trips in northern Michigan sweetie? All those walks under towering pines at Hartwick Pines, or along the beaches of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron? I never got you up the Lake Superior, but those waves might have made you nervous anyway. You weren’t sure about waves at all the first time we walked on the beach, and they were just tiny waves. Your ears went flat and you turned your back on them. Your face told me that my fantasies of walking my dog on the beach at sunset were not likely to happen. But later on, when you got more brave, you ran on the beach and barked at those old waves. You were set on protecting your mama from the danger they presented. Mama tried not to laugh.

And remember when we traveled to Alabama and you ran up and down the dock barking at the waves? You were so cute. You loved the Alabama house, with the air conditioning vents in the floor, perfect for cooling a sheltie tummy. You loved exploring Smith Mountain and the boat rides with your Uncle and Aunt. You loved sleeping on the deck overlooking your lake and napping in grandma’s chair by the big window. And you loved visiting friends, especially the farm with all the horses.

Remember visiting your Aunt’s house? She made you a special bed and you slept on it along with your new toy Mr. Porcupine. We went on long walks in brand new parks, and you got to sniff new smells in downtown Columbus along the riverfront. Why that walk was so long you got to walk in Georgia and Alabama before you made it back to the car!

And you loved running on the beach with your boyfriend Reilly and his dweeby brother Denny down in Florida, remember? You visited them more than once and you always had a wonderful time with them and their parents. The special treats you got while you were there were unrivaled! Let’s just say doggy ice cream was a hit. It was a special time in your adventurous life wasn’t it, girl.

You were lucky you got to meet so many people. Remember Ricky and Callie and their folks? How you had such a good time walking in the ravine, though you wouldn’t walk across that little stream, even after watching Ricky and his mom do it? You made me go back and carry you across, though the rocks were little more than damp. I guess it’s true a princess does not get her feet wet. And you made me carry you up the stairs at their house too. Repeatedly. You figured out how to go down stairs there, when Ricky showed you how, but you refused to go up. Silly little girl.

Sometimes we had adventures closer to home, remember? We’d meet people and go for walks in all sorts of parks. Remember your friend Deuce? We went for plenty of walks with him and his mom. We even went on one walk with him and his brand new little brother Ace. Ace was just a tiny bundle of fur and you were a mature girl of 13 or 14. You told him in no uncertain terms to back off, and he did. By then you were turning into quite the diva, but we figured you’d earned it.

You loved your walks with Queen Abby too. She was sedate like you, and the two of you ignored each other most of the time, except when the moms made you sit for a picture. Even then you didn’t want to sit too close together, you both knew about royal space requirements. But you sure enjoyed some wonderful walks together.

You had good walks with your friend, Peep, too. Lots of long walks in the woods, in all kinds of weather. Peep introduced you to one of your favorite parks in Holly Recreation, where we ended up camping so many times. We wouldn’t have even known about it if it weren’t for Peep explaining how great the park was.

And let’s not forget your time with your sister Payton! Two peas in a pod, you two. You only got to meet twice, but you both loved your walks together. In fact it was with Payton that you walked around Katie’s Park for the last time. You guys were so cute together, I’m glad we were able to spend time with Payton and her folks. I think they loved you too.

In fact, sweetie, I think that’s your legacy. Love. Everybody loved you. You had a huge fan club filled with people, most who never got to meet you. They all feel like they know you, they all loved you, and they all miss you. I know you’ve seen all the cards we’ve received in the mail, all the emails, all the comments on your blog, all the neighbors expressing their sadness.

We all thought you’d live forever, little girl. And I guess you will, just in another way. It’s been a month now. The longest month of my life. The shortest month of my life. I saw you out of the corner of my eye a couple nights ago, heading down the hall to the bedroom as the evening light dimmed. Just like normal, heading off to bed when it got dark, looking over your shoulder to see if I was coming. It was just a shadow, not really you. Or was it?

Come visit me again, sweetie. I take comfort in knowing you are up there with so many that love you, lots of your doggie friends, and members of our families. I know you’re just fine sweetie, no more achy hips, no more upset tummy. You’ve got all sorts of great treats to munch on, and snowballs and frisbees to catch, wonderful beaches to run on, and lovely woods to walk in with so many great smells it’s beyond description.

Watch for us at the bridge, baby-girl, because we’ll be looking for you, our beautiful Katie, when we get there someday. Your daddy and I miss you so much, we will always and forever be yours.

Run fast and free sweet Katie-girl, we’ll see you again one day.


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Broken

I’ve written posts of celebration for other dogs. Friends’ dogs, dogs I loved, some I’d met, some I only knew online. Those posts flowed from my heart through my finger tips, past my tears and onto the screen as if by magic.

But this is my girl.

And the pain, so deep, is creating a fortress wall high and wide, filled with hidden devises ready to ignite without warning as memories explode and fade in my mind like 4th of July fireworks.

The words in my heart, aching to be set free by my finger tips, are trapped.

This is the time to celebrate Katie, to sit and remember all fifteen years, five months and twenty-three days of her extraordinary life. To relive the adventures, the funny head tilts, the squirrel alerts, the soft tummy tickles.

And I will do that, am trying to do that.

Just not quite yet.


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Remembering Bonnie

The last couple days I’ve been thinking about Bonnie, our sheltie-girl who lived with us before Katie. She had an entirely different life with us than Katie has. Not bad different, just different.

Going for a walk.

The only school she went to was puppy school, where she was mostly shy, but very smart. She threw up on the ride over to school most weeks. I’d arrive with a damp, smelly puppy and jeans soaked in puppy vomit. Regularly. When we got to the distance sit/stays she was so scared she slowly turned around until her back was to me as I stood on the other side of the school gym. The instructor said to me, “Well, she certainly hasn’t bonded with you!” Yet, at the end of the class she won 1st place in our mock obedience trial. Because she was a very good girl and had, in fact, bonded with me just fine.

She had lots of health problems. Born with a heart murmur, she had occasional seizures and was on meds for that her entire life. She had a toe amputated, and her tail, too, after it was injured durng a stay at a kennel. Through it all she soldiered on.

Near the end of her life, hanging out on the front porch.

She was lost for four days once, when she was staying with her favorite Grandpa Jack and got out of the house when no one was paying attention. Bruce and I were out of town and Grandpa Jack didn’t tell us she’d run away until we got home. Devestated didn’t begin to describe us and him. Luckily we got her back after signs were put up in the neighborhood and a woman called to say Bonnie had been hanging around in a vacant lot several streets away from Grandpa’s house.

Hanging out in the office with her mom.

She got lost for a little while here at home, too, when she chased a cat into the woods behind our house and I couldn’t find her. Turns out we hadn’t realized she had become deaf, so she didn’t come when we called for her out there in the woods. My husband found her sitting in a clearing waiting for us to come get her.

I called her my sweetie-girl because she was. Except the three times she got skunked. She never needed to be on a leash, we let her out to do her business at night, and sometimes she got involved with the visiting black and white kitties. Oh the smell! I can tell you with certainty that tomato juice does not take away the smell of skunk. It does, however, give you a smelly, wet orange dog.

The driveway was a good spot to survey her kingdom too.

She was a special little girl who died three months shy of her 15th birthday, here at home exactly 15 years ago today. I wrote about her last afternoon with us way back when I began this blog. Today I went back to the blog to find out when she died, because she’s been on my mind.

Imagine my surprise to find today was the anniversary.

She never went camping, never explored a park, didn’t go traveling, never really liked being in a car. What she really liked was being home with her people. I guess she’s been hanging around my heart and my mind these past few days because she wants me to know she’s still here. Of course she is. She never ever wanted to be anywhere else.

Love you forever Bon-bon, my sweetie-girl.

Me and my girl.


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Plastic wrap flashback

Today I’ve been busy cleaning the house and cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow. It’s one of the days I’m glad Katie gets me up early, I have so much to do. Katie, on the other hand, is less than happy, following me around from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchen and back again as I alternate cleaning with putting something on the stove or in the oven or downstairs in the spare fridge.

Up and down, back and forth. She didn’t even bark at her personal nemesis the vacuum cleaner. By the time I got to that she was all but exhausted. Me too.

But there was one moment this morning when I was suddenly transported back to Thanksgiving 2004, and I had to stop and catch my breath. And then grin sadly.

You see, in the summer of 2004 my mom died suddenly, and by Thanksgiving of that year the entire family recognized that we couldn’t take family for granted. And so both sides of my family, people on my mom’s side, and people on my dad’s, from all over the country, were arriving for Thanksgiving dinner, to be eaten on Friday, at my house.

Dad and my siblings got there a day or so early and were helping me prepare. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of plastic wrap. It’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without plastic wrap. So even though it was Thanksgiving morning, a time I would generally avoid going to the store, my dad volunteered to run out and pick some up for me. And of course all he and one of my brothers could find was some funky colored sticky plastic wrap which I used that day but never used again. In fact I think I still have that roll at the back of the pantry.

Today I was making vegetable lasagna for dinner tonight and needed to cover the pan with foil before it went into the oven. I had a new roll of it waiting in the drawer. But darn it all, Kroger, do you have to glue the edge down so that I can’t get it started? Does everyone have to yank the foil including the cardboard core out of the box and use scissors in order to get a piece of foil? I should just go buy another brand.

And then I envisioned going to the store the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The chaos that would be there. Just for some tinfoil. Even though I know for a fact that it’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without tinfoil, I wasn’t going to head to the store for anything. And then I remembered sending dad out into the craziness for plastic wrap.

And I stopped tugging the tinfoil and I took a deep breath and I smiled.

Memories on this Thanksgiving about Thanksgivings long past. I guess that’s what the holidays are supposed to be about. And I should probably just stop worrying about all that food. It will get done or it won’t, Thanksgiving will be here either way, and I’m grateful to be spending it with some of my family this year.

I hope you are all in a happy place as well. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

At my wedding, 1990.


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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