Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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.


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Some politicians are just regular folks

Let me tell you a story about politics that makes me smile.

I know, I know. Politics and smiling haven’t seemed related in a very long time. But trust me, there are plenty of great people holding down policital jobs these days. We don’t hear about them often, but we should.

Those of you following this blog for the past few years know that in 2016 I stepped way out of my comfort zone to work on the campaign of a woman running to become my district’s Representative. You know that politics is not my thing and if I had my druthers I’d live in a little house in the woods or on a lake and not turn the television on at all.

But then my dad was killed by a tired trucker and my life changed. I tell new truck safety families all the time that they don’t know how strong they are until they have to be. That we can do anything that’s important to us, that we’re passionate about.

And changing the Representative for my district was important to me, because the incumbent, representing a party that had been in office for years, refused to meet with me to talk about truck safety issues, even though I was his constituent. And the challenger, Elissa Slotkin, was willing to hear me out at the very beginning of her campaign.

So in 2018 I canvased for her, which was much more scary to me then speaking in public about truck safety issues, scarier than meeting with the Secretary of Transportation, or testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee. And she won, by a slim margin, in a district that is primarly made up of people not in her party.

Katie was happy when Elissa won too.

Since she’s been in office she’s signed on to support one of our issues, trying to get automatic emergency brakes mandated in commercial trucks, and she’s always been willing to talk with us about whatever safety issues we’re fighting.

This year my husband and I have focused on getting people the yard signs they’ve requested. We live in a township that is very red, the roads are lined with signs of the opposing party. I take it as a personal victory when I can get one of Elissa’s signs into a yard that is surrounded by her opponent’s signs.

A couple weeks ago we were notified that one of her signs, a large one on a main road, had been defaced. We didn’t know how it was defaced, but we said we’d go out and see if we could salvage it. We hoped it was just kids having a crazy Saturday night.

Discouraging.

We were wrong.

Maybe we should have left it defaced, to make a point, but signs are expensive, and the defacing seemed malicious, so we went to work to try and clean it up. It took 3 hours and a whole lot of elbow grease. And even after all that, the sign was still disfigured.

But while we were working on it we had several cars honk in support, and a few people stopped by to offer ideas on supplies that might work, or to help clean it. We probably created more goodwill cleaning that sign than we would have if it had never been defaced. And no we didn’t deface it ourselves.

Working to clean it up.

But here’s the really cool thing. Today the Congresswoman called and left a long message on our landline, thanking us for cleaning up the sign, saying she had just driven by it and she wanted us to know that she appreciated the work.

At first, while I was listening to the message, I thought it was a robo call from her campaign — you know the kind where the candidate leaves a recorded message thanking you for support and asking for you to chip in a little more. But no, this wasn’t her office calling, wasn’t a recorded message, it was just a woman saying thanks, like any regular person would, directly and in person, sincerely, asking for nothing more.

As good as we could get it.

Just saying thanks.

And that’s the kind of person I am proud to vote for this November. A decent person who tries to make the best decisions at her job under stressful conditions every day. A person working for the betterment of all the people in her district – whether they voted for her or not. Someone who will listen to anybody’s issues, will give them all careful consideration, who doesn’t dismiss anyone. Someone who is always upfront and honest with her constituents.

She’s such a regular person that sometimes it’s hard for me to remember she’s actually a Congresswoman. I think of her as Elissa. I really need to work on giving her the respect and title she’s earned. She’s my Congresswoman and I’m proud of the work she’s doing while still being just regular folk. It’s such a relief to have someone like her representing me.

She makes me smile.


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Live music in a different way

Last night I attended, in a manner of speaking, the Detroit Symphony playing their opening concert of the new season. They played in Orchestra Hall, just like they have every season for years.

But it was very different this year.

This year I ran across an ad for the concert on Facebook. The concert was due to begin live streaming in four minutes. Tickets were $12. I spent three of those minutes finding my purse and credit card and entering all the data to get my virtual ticket.

At the last moment I tuned in to watch.

A lone violinist stood on a partially dark stage playing the National Anthem to a lit flag. Something about the lonliness of the performance had me feeling blue. No one was singing, so I softly did, off key, alone, with tears in my eyes. The last note was swallowed up by the empty seats, the silence deafening.

And then the opening piece, Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland began. Near the back of the otherwise empty stage were three percussionists, dressed in their concert blacks, with black masks, spaced at least 10 feet apart, playing a gong, the bass drum and a timpani. At the front of the stage was the conductor standing on a raised podium. And behind him, spread across the balconies, were the brass, high above the empty main floor.

The piece was electrifying. They played it, said the conductor later, to honor the Covid victims and because it is filled with hope. It certainly made me feel better, though it was so odd that when it was finished the conductor bowed to the empty house and exited, stage right just as he would if we were all there, wildly applauding.

They played several other pieces, all relatively short. My favorite was Gabriel’s Oboe by Morricone, which was played to “provide some peace to all of you during this time.” It’s just beautiful, if you have time, sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and listen.

The whole concert was a little less than an hour. Watching was a bit surreal, even the fully orchastrated pieces had at most 15 people on the stage. Those playing strings wore masks. The woodwinds had plexiglass sitting in front of them, and a cloth on the floor to capture any drips. At the end of each piece the solists were recognized; they stood and bowed slightly to the empty house.

I was grateful to watch a live concert but I wonder how the musicians felt playing it. Did it seem strange to have no applause? Could they feel us out here, our faces lit by the glow of a screen, leaning forward and letting the music fill us up? Could they sense the emotion we were feeling? Did they feel something similar?

I hope they did. I hope the music filled them up as well. And I hope someday we get to sit, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, in a packed hall. I hope we get to spontaneously and as one rise to our feet with applause at the end of a piece. I hope we get to grin at each other and shake our heads in wonder.

I hope we get to clap until our hands hurt.

Until then I’ll gladly spend $12 to watch them on my laptop. It’s money well spent.


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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.


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It’s National Sheltie Day!

Katie here. (What? You were expecting someone else to tell you about my national day?)

Mama woke up this morning crying and she’s not sure why. Maybe it’s because of all the bad news lately. She’s quite sensitive, my mama, and things like protests turned violent, and people dying, and stores being burned down on top of so many people sick and dying from the virus, well, sometimes it’s just too much.

Let’s celebrate mama!

Lucky for her today is National Sheltie Day! Of course the only reason she knows that is because it turned up in her Facebook memories from last year. To be honest, she’s not even sure there really is a National Sheltie Day, she has suspicions that it’s all made up by someone short and furry in her household.

Ahem.

But I assured her this morning that it was real. I am very persuasive, so she said she’d take me to one of my parks to celebrate and I was all excited. We went to a little park not far from home and I was so happy when I got out of my car!

I sniffed my way up and down the smaller hills at the beginning of the trail.

Yep, something very interesting walked here not long ago.

But when we got to the top of the first big down hill (and uphill on the other side of the creek) I stopped. I looked at mama and she looked at me. She asked me if I wanted to keep going and I wouldn’t move, even when she gave my leash a little tug. She asked me if I wanted to go back to the car and I wouldn’t move, even when she gave my leash a little tug in that direction.

I don’t know, mama, that looks like a really big hill to come back up!

She said we could just stand there awhile if I wanted to. So we did. We stood at the very top of that hill and just listened to the birds and watched a chipmunk scurry in the underbrush. Finally mama asked me again which way I wanted to go and I turned around and headed back to the car.

I saw mama look one last time over her shoulder at the trail. She said her eyes weren’t really wet, she said a bug just flew into them. But I know the truth.

The truth is that it was 62 degrees outside (16.6 C), too hot for this little sheltie girl to want to wander up and down big hills. The truth is that I’m 13 and a half now and walks have to be shorter then they used to be. The truth is that even though I get excited at the thought of an adventure, the actual adventure sort of wears me out.

Thanks for understanding, mama.

Mama and I both know the truth and that was no bug in her eye.

But I’m still smiling, I had a very nice, though short, walk in the woods to celebrate me and my National Sheltie Day. And when we got home mama gave me a frozen banana and peanut butter treat and that made me smile even more!

No matter what, I’ll always be your beautiful girl, huh mama.

Signing off for now, it’s time for me to take my power nap, your elder stateswoman, Katie-girl.

Whatcha done for me lately, mama?


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Games

Listen to me, mama!

I’m working on a little watercolor cat postcard for someone and doing delicate work around the eyes when Katie barks. At me. She’s lucky my hand didn’t slip, but I knew enough to put the art away for awhile.

She’s feeling ignored.

She doesn’t want to go out back to her pen, a place she enjoys these days before things get to hot out there in the coming weeks. She wants to go out, but not to go out, if you know what I mean. I attempt, a second time, to take her out to her pen and she detours to the folding chairs on the other end of the deck.

There she settles in her favorite location to watch the road. She looks over her shoulder at me, still attached to her leash, and says I can either stand there like a dummy, or sit in the chair and enjoy the evening. With her.

So I sit.

She watches the road. I watch the birds in the trees above as they make their decisions about dinner. They are coming in for their evening meal and Katie and I, though we are sitting very still, are objects to consider.

A single gold finch begins to sing…three notes, the last on an upward question; “You still here? You still here? He’s not sure what to do about us, so he keeps asking.

The group of three chickadees aren’t worried about us at all. They work themselves down to the lowest hanging branches, just above us, cock their heads, consider us unimportant, and shoot off to the feeder, each grabbing one choice seed and skidding back up into the branches where they tap open their seeds, the sound multiplied by three.

I think I hear a nuthatch, they sort of whine when they want something, but I can’t see it. Then a downy woodpecker swoops down to the feeder, and I realize I might have mistaken it for the nuthatch.

A titmouse flutters above my head, not sure if it should go get something to eat, or pull some hair for a nest. I must have moved; suddenly it flies straight up and over to the feeder.

More goldfinches join the lonely one, each singing, none brave enough to eat with us sitting there. Soon there is an entire choir, but apparently they find no strength in numbers.

I nod off a little, no worries, Katie is keeping watch while simultaneously breaking twigs into smaller twigs. She’s a multi-talented little girl.

Suddenly there is scrambling and chirping and two chipmunks race up the railing and across the deck and down the other side. Since she is so focused on her twigs Katie misses all the action. I nod off again.

Hearing something scrambling in the leaves below I glance down, expecting to see Chip or Dale. But no. It a towhee! I’ve lived here more than twenty-five years and I’ve only seen this bird twice before! It scratches around in the the dry leaves for a moment or two, and then flies away.

Katie doesn’t understand why I am so excited, or why she gets a treat when we go inside. I owe her that towhee sighting, and all the other bird (and chipmunk) games we got to watch. Because if she hadn’t said “enough mama,” I’d have missed it all.

Katie is full of good ideas, if only I’d stop and listen. She’s napping now, probably dreaming up something else fun for us to do.

As I’m sure she’s told you, she has to do everything around here.

zzzzzzzz…