Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Brown sugar

I think about Aunt Vi nearly every morning. Some of you will remember she was my husband’s aunt who lived to be 102.5 years old.

She liked to use that extra .5, because at her age, every month counted. Kind of like a little girl who might answer the question about her age with “4 and a half!” eager to head to kindergarten when she turned five.

Back in her younger days

Anyway, I think about her most days as I make my morning oatmeal. During her last year of life she lived in a nursing home, where the only meal she would eat was her breakfast oatmeal. And the only thing that made that meal edible was the brown sugar she kept in a baggie in her nightstand drawer.

At her 100th birthday party.

She showed me that bag on one of my visits, a worn out baggie, opened and closed numerous times. The kind where you have to line up the two sides correctly to get the bag to seal.

At 101, still at home with her bird Charlie

It it wasn’t completely sealed, the tiny bits of brown sugar hardened at the bottom of the bag.

And I think about it now. Sprinkling that brown sugar on her oatmeal (which she said was often cold by the time it got to her) was the highlight of her day. Those bits of sweetness were like gold might be to someone else.

And it never occured to me to offer to bring her more. I could have shown up one visit with a fresh bag of brown sugar, sugar that was still soft, but more abundant. Sugar she wouldn’t have to ration so tightly.

Her 102nd birthday.

Every morning when I make my oatmeal, when I sprinkle it with brown sugar I think of her.

And I send up a silent apology that I was so blind.

“What are you doing?” she asked me when I took this with my phone


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Just too much

This morning when Katie-girl woke me at 4 a.m. to go outside I turned on the news to get the latest on hurricane Ida. I have a few friends in the path of the storm.

I watched a few minutes of roofs being torn off buildings and downed trees, utility poles snapped in half, blinding rain. My heart broke. Then the anchor turned to Afghanistan and the thirteen soldiers whose families are beginning their new normal and my heart broke again. And after that were images of the fires in the west. And then Corona virus hospitalization numbers.

After our storm last night.

I turned the television off.

Katie and I went back to bed. She fell asleep instantly, not burdened by worry. I lay there for awhile trying not to get sucked into despair.

But this morning, as I was fixing Katie’s breakfast (boiled chicken, white rice, Royal Canin kibble, green beans and pumpkin) I noted that the air felt fresher, the temperatures cooler than we’ve had in a very long time.

As she ate I went out to fill the birdfeeders.

Early morning of a fresh new day.

A little chickadee flitted around my head, waiting for his favorite feeder to be rehung. A hummingbird checked us both out, reminding me I needed to put fresh sugar water out too.

There was cool morning dew on the roses.

Ripe tomatoes were ready to be picked in the garden.

The sun was coming up and a kingfisher clattered through a beam of light, headed for the pond.

Yes, there are terrible, terrible things going on here at home and across the world. Yes today is a sad day, yesterday was a sad day, all of last week was terrible for so many people. Tomorrow might not be better.

But I am so lucky that when I take the time to look there is usually something good to find, even in the midst of just too much.

Watcha doing, mama?

And that makes me smile.


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Practice

This post is going to try to figure out how to insert other types of pictures. The old WordPress let you do collages, and small images, and place them to the left or right. The new blockhead WordPress, so far, hasn’t let me do any of that.

So here goes.

Nope that didn’t work….but I can make headings….

And I can add a picture and words in the same block…

And I found a sort of collage, see above on the right. I don’t know why it ended up there…or why it’s all crunched together when I preview it, it’s not that way in the edit mode…but that’s the way of WordPress’s blockhead new program. I wonder if I can find other things.

And you know what else? I can’t figure out how to eliinate an image I insert. Once something is there I can replace it with something else…but not eliminate it totally. Well. That’s odd. And annoying.

Forest.

Even a child knows how valuable the forest is. The fresh, breathtaking smell of trees. Echoing birds flying above that dense magnitude. A stable climate, a sustainable diverse life and a source of culture. Yet, forests and other ecosystems hang in the balance, threatened to become croplands, pasture, and plantations.

I can add an image inside an image, but I didn’t choose the forest, it got chosen for me.

I don’t know….all I’ve figured out is that there’s a lot more to find if I take the time. But not everything works the way I think it should.

I guess I need to keep digging.

The randomness is intentional, because that’s the way I feel about the “new” WordPress.


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Mom musings

I’ve been missing my mom the past week or so even more than usual. Those of us with moms who are gone miss them every day, but sometimes the ache is just more profound.

A little poppy from our wildflower bed, in early morning light.

I’ve found myself wanting to give her a call. To ask her how she did so much with all of us when some days I don’t seem to get anything done at all.

I wonder how she kept her gardens up. I don’t have any memories of her weeding, though she had gardens in our house in Adrian, and again in Howell, and then in Alabama. I can’t keep up with the gardens we have, and I don’t have nearly the responsibilities she did when we were growing up.

The coreopsis lifts it’s face to the sun.

And meals. I know I’ve talked about this before, but how in the world did she manage to get a meal (or two) on the table for six of us every single day? I know we took it for granted and often asked her what was for dinner. I don’t remember ever reacting negatively to her reply, but just the question alone placed all the responsibility on her and she must have felt that weight.

Mama? I’ll wait right here while you take those pictures and think about your Mom.

When we were older, did we ever make a meal for the family? Sometimes on Sunday we’d make the coffee cake for evening supper. Wow, what a relief she must have felt, ey? One meal during the week where we made something, though I imagine she was there to supervise. I don’t remember ever working in the kitchen that she wasn’t there too.

The zinnia stands up straight and tall.

And let’s not even start talking about laundry. Though I remember knowing how to do laundry at an early age, I also remember mom sitting on the sofa with six growing piles of folded underwear surrounding her as she tried to match all the socks. It seemed to be never ending.

Just beginning to emerge.

I know we had Saturday chores, the vaccuuming and cleaning the bathrooms and probably a whole lot more that I can’t remember. I know the list on Saturday of things we had to get done before we could go off and do whatever kids did back then seemed long.

But I doubt it was that lengthy, and nowhere near the list she handled every day. Stuff we took for granted. Stuff we took for granted her entire life.

Red lantana can brighten anybody’s day.

I remember her finally coming down to the family room in the evening after she finished whatever chore she had attacked at the end of the day. We’d all be down there watching the big bulky television and she’d settle on the sofa between a couple kids, or next to dad.

And she’d instantly fall asleep, in what I realize now, was sheer exhaustion.

Light folds into the lilly blossoms.

She’d wake up at the commercials, because, as some of you may recall, they’d be louder than the television show they sponsored. She used to say all she ever saw on television were the commercials.

Once upon a time I thought she and dad were too old to up and move across the country when they were fifty, leaving everything they knew behind. Now I’m fifteen years older than they were then and I don’t think it’s odd at all to contemplate and even accomplish such an adventure.

So much glorious color at this time of the year makes me smile.

Mom and dad had plenty of adventures, both when we were kids, and after we had left home. But I think of those early years with all four of us and dad to take care of and I don’t know how she did it.

There are smiles everywhere you look.

I hope she knows that I recognize her work now and wish I had expressed that to her all those years ago.

I guess today is Mother’s Day in my heart.

It’s OK, mama. I think she knew.


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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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The rollercoaster that is Katie

Katie has been sick. The kind of life-threatening sick that makes a sheltie parents’ hearts quicken as they contemplate what life will be like someday when a fiesty little girl isn’t around to make things interesting.

She had emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder in early April, at the age of fourteen, and came through just fine. She’s a strong one. Twenty-one staples held her little shaved tummy together, and she never once tried to mess with them.

But they found some bacteria in the samples they took for biopsy, so she was prescribed two anti-biotics, strong ones, to be taken for six weeks. And they wanted her to change her diet over to a kidney supporting food. And thus the struggle began.

Lucky girl, they told us to feed her a bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice for the first two days. She was fine with that. But she wasn’t going to eat that KD dog food. Nope. Not interested. So we suplemented with more chicken, different types of rice, homemade broth made from chicken bones, fresh green beans steamed just so, oven roasted sweet potatoes.

Every day we’d try different flavors of the KD dog food. Sometimes she’d accept the kibble, hand fed as a treat, quite eagerly. The next day she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The wet food made her turn her face away in disgust.

We’d order more flavors, try to entice her to eat. As the days went on and we kept filling her with antibiotics we learned that a side effect was lack of appetite. She stopped wanting to eat chicken, rice was off the table. Sweet potato sometimes worked. Sometimes not.

We were having more and more trouble getting the pills into her, as she became suspicious of all hand held food, worried about what was in it. Pill pockets didn’t work anymore. Peanut butter was hit and miss. Cheese was a no go.

Every morning I’d start the day trying to get her pain pill administered. “What do you like today, Miss Katie?” I’d ask her. Her face would light up at the memory of getting a wonderful treat, but she’d drop her smile in disappointment when she was offered a pill covered in some previously delectible spread.

By the sixth week I was disparing of ever getting her to eat again, watching her as she slept, missing my fiesty, noisy, curious, happy little girl.

And then, twenty-four hours after her last pill she begged us for something to eat. And we offered her the KD dog food and she gulped it down. “Got any more, mama?” The kibble, offered as a treat? “No problem daddy, I love my kibble treats!”

These days, when she’s being her noisy, curious, happy self, I sit and watch her, storing the memories. Though she’s acting like her old self, the truth is she’s still almost fourteen and a half. We got more time, but time isn’t infinite.

This early morning she wanted to go out and sit on the deck. She won’t do that without me being there too, and I had a long list of things I wanted to get done. But I smiled and took my laptop and we went out. She’s out here now, on high alert, breaking up twigs while watching the road for anyone who might pass by without her specialized sheltie permit. They must be barked at.

I’m sitting here watching the birds and squirrels as they venture out for their morning meal. The nuthatch is peeking at us from the backside of the birch tree which is glowing in the morning light. He’s not sure it’s safe to flit over to the birdfeeder for a tasty treat. Eventually, after scolding us for some time, he decides we are not a threat and he picks out the best seed and hurries away. The female oriole is on the grape jelly feeder, not caring about us at all. There’s our wren warbling further out in the yard, guarding the nestbox where little ones are growing. A male bluebird sits very high in the tree above us, the sun catching the rusty glow of his chest. A chipmunk scurries along the deck, checking us out, and a black squirrel has just climbed the railing, but finding us there, scurries back down again.

Katie is oblivious to all of it.

The black squirrel approaches from a different direction, and she sees him. Much barking and prancing ensues. My happy, silly, curious, noisy girl is back. And oh good, the garbage truck is coming down the road. Another danger to protect mama from. Good thing for all of us that she’s still in charge.

Katie-girl. Our roller-coaster girl is back.

And we are grateful.


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Selma musings

Staring at the map from here in central Alabama I searched out places to explore nearby. Right away I noticed that Selma was only a couple hours away.

Why did I not know this? Why have we never visited before?

Selma on a pretty Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday, predicted to be a day filled with sun sandwiched by days of rain, seemed to be the time to go to Selma. So I did.

Armed with a map of Alabama for backup I memorized my route, I-85 to Montgomery, then highway 80 into Selma. I didn’t really figure how much time either leg would take, just went for the ride. I’m retired, I can take my time.

The trip started in grey fog, cold and damp.

I passed miles and miles of cotton fields, shorn of last year’s crop, waiting in the damp fog for spring.

Let me tell you, there’s a whole lot of nothing between here and Selma. Even the southern part of Montgomery wasn’t particularly interesting. Though I did see a miles long line of cars there, waiting, I’m guessing, to get their vaccines, complete with sheriff’s cars, lights flashing, managing the crowd.

That brought me back to reality. I’d been hanging out at the lake, no national news, sort of losing track of what was going on out in the rest of the world. That line of cars, all those people waiting, woke me up to the fact that things are still crazy dangerous.

Eventually I was driving through an area with strip malls, empty commercial spaces and tiny brick houses. Up a slight rise and I realized, with a quick intake of breath, that I was going over the bridge.

Suddenly I realized where I was.

The bridge where on March 7, 1965, Bloody Sunday, marchers for civil rights were met with violence. The bridge where just last year John Lewis’s body, in it’s casket, paused for a national moment of reflection.

I held my breath as I drove slowly over it and into the town itself.

I took these images after I had parked and walked back over the bridge. I walked over the bridge a total of 3 times, the light just kept getting better.

I parked near the bridge and walked back over it, stopping to take pictures of the backside of town, and of the river.

The Alabama River was still that morning. So was the backside of Selma.

There’s was a moment, at the top, where I had to stop and just be. I imagined what it must have been like, sounded like. Felt like. It seemed like a sacred place, even with cars speeding by only a foot away.

If these steel beams could talk.

Then I walked around downtown a bit. It’s in a sad state of disrepair. The whole place needs a huge cash infusion.

Closed for covid? Or closed forever?

I don’t know why there aren’t tours to be had. (Though there was one young man who offered to give me a tour.) Why there’s not a 1960 diner with chocolate malts or strong coffee.

No diner, but you can get a haircut!

Why there’s not a welcome center with a documentary playing around the clock in a little theatre off the main display hall.

Jubilee headquarters.

There is an interpretive center a few miles away, but I doubt that contributes to the revenue of Selma itself, and of course it was closed due to covid anyway.

A pretty staircase to nowhere.

There’s some beautiful old buildings, some are kind of restored, some are in disrepair.

I don’t think they had a room available. But not because they were busy.

There are several huge beautiful churches.

The Blue Jean church.

There was a bit of eccentric art here and there.

This poor little ghost was the character in a local author’s books, and moved around town as part of a promotional effort several years ago.

In fact there was an air of eccentricity over most of the town.

After market additions to this souped up chevy.

I found a couple of pretty places.

A Rotary Club park, with mural and benches where buildings once stood.

But mostly what I felt was sad. Sad that this piece of history is only acknowledged on anniversaries, or this past year, the death of John Lewis.

I hope this Board of Education building doesn’t reflect the condition of the school system. But it might.

Sad that I grew up during the period of racial tensions (the ones back then, they’re still going on, I know.) and I didn’t really have any idea.

I didn’t see a lot of evidence of living the future.

Sad that, if I’m honest, I still don’t really have any idea.

A little park, also falling into disrepair, at the beginning of the bridge.

The town seems stuck in 1965, it’s moment of fame, but there are people living here that have been left behind, just like people in small rural towns all across the country. People in big cities too, if we’re being honest. Places where money and technology just don’t reach.

I agree, the name of the bridge needs to be changed if this town is ever going to move forward. Doesn’t have to be the John Lewis Bridge, but that would be nice too.

It’s a huge problem with no easy answers. But if more people visited Selma, found ways to spend some money here, maybe at least one historical place would begin to move forward, respecting the past but moving into the future.

Sagging under neglect.


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What matters in the end

Yesterday was Inauguration Day. Depending on where you stand it might have been a wonderful, uplifting day or it might have been a tragedy. I have thoughts about all that swirling around in my head – they may or may not spill out eventually.

But that’s not where my head or heart are today.

Because, you see, last night, after a day where the world focused on the big picture, after the sun set in a show we haven’t seen here in years, once the world went still, my neighbor left this earth quietly, his departure marked only by family.

The end of an extraordinary day.

I tell you this not because it was a tragedy, though they will miss him fiercely, but because it reminds me this morning of what is important. It’s not the arguments over real or imagined fears, it’s not the friendships destroyed by political influence, it’s not cabinet appointments or policy changes.

What’s important, really, are the relationships we all have, with our family members, with our friends, with our neighbors. Those are what need to be protected, those are fragile, those will not last forever. Those are what we must work on now.

Last night the birdhouse our neighbor made for us many years ago fell from it’s tree. And last night our neighbor broke free, no longer in pain, no longer confused, no longer in tears.

God speed Jack, Katie and I will miss sitting on your front porch in conversation, or near the end, in communal silence, watching the world go by. She looks toward your house when we’re out on walks and will still tug me toward your driveway. Thanks for always giving her an ear scratch. She’ll miss your, “Whatcha doing girl?”

So will I.


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Contemplation on this historic day

I’ve been pretty distracted while waiting on election results. Day after day with seemingly little movement.

It’s been a dark and stormy process.

I’ve been trying to stay out of the fray on Facebook and twitter. Once in awhile I’ve weighed in with my opinion that the reason it was taking so long was the inordinate amount of mail in ballots, the record level of turnout for this election, and the care that ballot counters were taking to get it right.

But to be honest my nerves were frayed.

Everyone is feeling a little prickly.

I know that a good portion, maybe even more than 50% of my friends are from the other side of the aisle. I know that today, when the election was finally called, they feel the same gut punch I felt 4 years ago when I woke up to a result I didn’t expect and didn’t like.

Bits of sky show the promise of sun.

I know it will take them a few days, maybe longer, to process the results and decide how they’re going to move forward. I know they are just as scared about the future now as I was four years ago.

Most of us have some inner soul searching to do.

And I know that we will continue to be friends, and I hope, as the physical evidence of which side we’re on, those pesky yard signs, are put away that we can move forward together.

The winds of politics are changing.

The world won’t have changed so very much after January 20th. We’ll still have covid, economic hardships, climate change, world squirmishes, racial tension, job insecurities, and probably some stuff we don’t even know about yet, to deal with. If we work on these together life will be easier.

If you need a hug, I’m available.

Here’s hoping there’s a big table somewhere that everyone is invited to as we begin the work.

Lean toward the light.


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What is true

I know that science is true.
I know that Covid 19 is everywhere.
I know that washing hands and staying away from crowds will slow the spread.
I know that wearing masks when you do go out will protect others.

I know that spending extended months away from friends and family is hard.
I know we’re all experiencing Covid fatigue.
I know we’re feeling constrained, our personal rights being trampled.
I know we’re feeling sad and overwhelmed and frustrated and tired of it all.

And I know we want it to just go away like the President has promised it will.
But that’s not the truth.
We haven’t turned a corner, we aren’t out of the woods, it’s not going away.
There isn’t a magical cure available for anyone to use.

I know there is no end in sight, that the numbers of cases and deaths will continue to rise.
I know that unless people begin to care for each other and respect the science we are stuck with no hope but a vaccine that might come next year.
I know the vaccine, even when it’s ready, won’t be easy to administer to every American.
I know that some people won’t want to take a vaccine pushed through the approval process.

I know that 218,000 people have died of Covid related illness in the US alone.
I know that because one of those people was a family member of mine.
I know that hundreds of thousands of families are strugling with those deaths.
I know that spouses and children and grandchildren and friends are all experiencing deep grief.

And I know it didn’t have to be this way.
I know that I will always place blame on the leaders of our country for not putting together a national plan, for dismantling the process that was already in place, for lying and offering false hope.
I know that blaming doesn’t fix the problem and blaming doesn’t make the pain go away.
But I know that those 218,000 people who lost their lives deserve to be honored, and the countless hundreds of thousands of people left with dilbaitating illness after suffering the disease will need help.

I know that our country is up to the task.
I know that we can look beyond ourselves and do what has to be done.
I know that we can see family in zoom meetings, send virtual hugs for as long as it takes.
I know that we can wear the darn mask.

Because this is the America I know. The strong yet empathetic country that can accomplish anything.
The country I know can come back from the brink of destruction.
I know we can turn this around.
I know this is true.