Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The struggle is real

No, not that kind of struggle…the struggle to capture the night sky image I have in my head. Sometimes I think I should just get another head.

See that shadow hump in the foreground? That’s me hunkered down behind the camera, due to my neighbors GIGANTIC light hanging over her garage. Sigh. And the lights on the right are from my house.

This week we finally had a clear night. I swear, we hadn’t seen the sun in weeks here in Michigan, but one day this week the sun graced us with her presence and I excitedly watched the weather guy to see if we were going to keep those clear skies overnight.

Well…sort of…but it was the best we’d had in forever, so I figured I’d run over to a local park where I thought the skies would be darker than Katie’s park here in town. I was going to go over around 9 p.m., figuring it would be true dark by then. But I’m older now and was already yawning at 8. And it looked pretty darn dark to me even that early.

I moved, so it’s somewhat better. And you can see a couple stars if you look carefully, so it’s all good.

So off I went, camera on the tripod, settings already entered. Remote shutter thingy attached. Extra batteries in my pocket. Handwarmer in there too. It was 17F out there.

As I drove the few miles to the park I didn’t see another car. Good. I don’t really want anyone to know I’m at the park after dark. I just want to grab a few practice shots and get out of there and back to my nice warm house.

But just as I got to the park entrance, beginning my turn in off a narrow country road, a car came up over the hill from the other direction, bright lights glaring. We both stopped for a moment, and then I continued on, not wanting them to see me pull into the park. I drove about half a mile away, turned around at the next road and went back.

WordPress always shows images darker than I’ve edited them. Lots of light over there. Plus some clouds moving in.

All was still. I texted my husband that I was there, and was reaching for my camera when a car, possibly the same car, pulled into the parking lot and parked at the other end.

Well. I’m not getting out of my car. In fact I locked the doors and waited a few minutes. I’m pretty sure they were doing the same thing. I couldn’t think of one good reason for anyone to be out there long after dark unless, of course, they too wanted to shoot the stars. And what were the odds of that?

So I backed up, shot out of the parking lot, and went home. I think I was gone all of 20 minutes. I was so frustrated I decided to at least take a picture of the tree in our yard, still decked out in lights. I figured the camera was on the tripod, might as well get something.

When I walked into the house husband said something like ‘That didn’t take long.” and I explained the story, and he said he’d go back out with me in a little bit.

Lots of light looking behind me too.

So we did. I felt much happier sitting out on the pier knowing he was in the car just behind me. I got a few images…but there was lots more light out there than I anticipated in a Bortle 4, I think I was shooting over the next small town. I need to go further away.

Still it was fun trying to remember all the things I needed to do to get the stars. I struggled with my tripod a whole lot too. Good things to practice before the Milky Way is back up. I really want that shot that’s in my head

There were a LOT of planes that night.

Today I tried stacking a series of 10 images from that night. That’s supposed to take things that aren’t consistent between the images out and improve the noise level in the results. I think I need to figure something out, because this is what I got.

9 images of the airplane at 8 seconds each. Sigh. And another little one down near the horizon too.

Ah well, my classmates will help me with that…and meanwhile I had a midwinter adventure close to home and have another story to tell!

PS: I think you need to be looking at these images when you’re sitting in a dark room with no glare. 🙂


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Random, possibly Christmas-y, bits of thought

Anyway, I was reading Quaint Revival’s latest post about all the snow she’s getting over in Wisconsin, and she said it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas…which led her into thoughts about how those lyrics happened to be written and a request for someone to find out for her. Which, being a want-to-be librarian I felt compelled to do.

I think Santa is on some sort of exercise program.

She thought maybe the lyrics were written by Meredith Wilson in 1951 as he sat beside a pool, hopefully under warm skies. But Wikipedia says it probably was written in Yarmouth, and when I google that I can only find Yarmouth Maine, or Yarmouth British Columbia, neither of which sounds very warm, even in midsummer!

Looking for her Christmas gift. Or a peanut, whichever’s available.

But looking for this information did remind me that we played this very piece of holiday music at our recent concert, so I went to listen to it again. Well, actually, I went and listened to it for the first time. Music sounds very different when you’re sitting in the middle of the band than it does when sitting in the audience, and I haven’t taken time to listen to our concert until now. (I recommend listening to this with a good set of earphones…it sounds a LOT better with earbuds than just using your laptop speakers.)

Holiday music always makes things better.

Last Sunday I had a couple friends come for lunch and painting. Well, truthfully, they brought most of the lunch (roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches) and most of their own painting supplies too. After we ate the yummy lunch we settled in to paint Christmas cards. It was so much fun to experiment together. Plus it increased my stock of cards waiting to be mailed out to unsuspecting friends and family. I should do this on a larger scale next year!

Seems like birds infiltrate all aspects of my life.

We have a little bit of snow, enough to make things look pretty, but not enough to interfere with driving. Not that I’m driving much. One of the benefits of retirement is not having to go out unless I want to. When it’s cold and snowing I rarely want to. And though I miss my Katie-girl soooo much, I am kind of glad to roll over in bed and go back to sleep in the dark early hours of these winter mornings.

“I used to put up with an awful lot, mama.”

Speaking of not traveling, we’re staying home this Christmas. We have had invites to holiday gatherings, but this year we just can’t quite make ourselves wander out. Twenty Twenty-two has been a long, hard year for us. Instead of going out this year I’ll fix some of the family mealtime favorites, and we’ll snuggle up on the couch to enjoy the quiet.

I look forward to seeing these guys every year.

Though it might not be entirely quiet. We’re going to have a houseguest for awhile, a little 10 year old doggie will be staying with us while his mom is visiting family out of town. We’ve practiced him being here without his mom a couple of times and I think he’s going to settle in, but he sure does love his mom.

“Does this peanut make my head look flat?”

I saw a movie trailer this morning for something staring Tom Hanks. There was a year, a long time ago, when my husband and I watched several movies, unusual for us, realizing later that all of them were Tom Hanks movies. You know, Castaway, Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan. This movie is called something like A Man called Otis. While I was watching the trailer something felt familiar…and then I remembered one of my favorite books, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, about an elderly man who’s quiet life is interrupted by a family that moves in next door. I think the movie is based on this book, and I think I really need to go see it. Maybe during the Christmas holiday week, as a gift from me to me.

Sometimes Christmas feels like this.

I did get out to feed the birds at Kensington this morning. A lot of the photos in this post are from that visit. I didn’t look at the weather, or even the temperature before I left home when it was still dark. By the time I got to the park the wind was blowing the snow sideways. Not surprisingly no one else was around.

“I don’t eat out of hands, lady. But if you’ve got a spare peanut I’d enjoy it.”

I went out to the boardwalk to see if I could entice the Queen to my hand, but she wasn’t having any of it. In fact none of the birds were willing to get too close, though they were happy enough to come to the railing if I’d leave my treats and back off.

“Not today, lady, not today.”

I wandered in the woods a little, to get out of the wind, and even there things were very quiet. And then I stood still and waited.

“My turn!” “NO IT’S NOT! It’s MY turn!”

And soon enough I heard the flutter of wings and saw, through the trees, the fast moving little bodies of hungry birds. So fun. Even though my hands were freezing and my toes were freezing I stood around out there for a long time.

“Hey Lady! I’m waiting patiently over here!”

I stood there just smiling and watching them, all puffed up against the cold.

“Puffing up helps you keep warm lady, you should try it.”

Merry Christmas to my little birds, and to all of you too. May you all enjoy this holiday season, in whatever way seems right for you this year.

And here’s hoping 2023 is amazing.


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Foggy glow

It all started, as things often do, with an early morning appointment.

For years Katie-girl got me up extra early and while we were outside doing her business I’d usually witness beautiful but fleeting things. Geese or swans flying low with bellies glowing in the early light. Full moons dipping below the branches of our trees. A fox slipping silently through the woods. The flick of a deer’s white tail. Wisps of fog dancing on the pond.

But I haven’t been out in the early morning light lately.

Last week, once our 7:30 a.m. oil change was completed, my sister and I were driving home just as the sun was trying to break through the fog. It was beautiful, and we looked at each other and said….”Where can we go to get pictures of this?”

And…lucky for us we were only one exit away from one of my favorite parks, Holly Recreation, where Katie and I used to camp and wander the trails.

I felt a twinge of grief as I contemplated visiting one of her parks without her. But as we entered the park I realized the best place for pictures would be down near the lake and there was a parking lot Katie and I hardly ever used that would work perfectly for morning fog photos.

I felt relieved. I could be in the park, but not in Katie’s favorite part where I would feel her loss the most. Progress ,on this grief journey, is often made with tiny steps.

We parked and walked up and down that section of the road, taking pictures of the sun rising above the water, and the fog through the trees.

The reflections were gorgeous and we probably looked like crazy old ladies as we giggled and called back and forth to “come here and look at this!”

And when our fingers were frozen and our feet were soggy we climbed back into the car laughing as we cranked the heat up and scrolled through the images on our phones, each one better than the one before.

You can’t beat a good morning adventure – Katie taught me that over and over and over again. I like to think she was with us that morning, saying “I told you mama! You have to get out of bed early in the morning to catch the best stuff!”

I know, little girl, I know.


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Walktober 2022, Chippewa Nature Center, Midland Michigan

Decades ago my grandma told me that time speeds up the older you get. Being the superior teenager that I was, I chalked the comment up to her being confused in her old age. (Which coincidentally was just about the age I am now.)

I stopped, early in the morning, on my way to Chippewa Nature Center, at Overlook Park just in case there were eagles. No eagles, but several bucks were having breakfast near the retention ponds at Dow.

Grandma, it turns out, was right.

And, as Robin says, here we are in October again. Another year is almost in the books and time is sliding by sideways while we aren’t paying any attention.

It was still quite early when I arrived, so I spent some time exploring a little pioneer farm display while I waited for the sun to come up.

Which I guess is why we need a Walktober, when you stop (which is the point) and think about it. Walktober is all about getting outside and noticing stuff.

A face only a mother could love.

Little stuff and big stuff, pretty stuff and interesting stuff. Stuff that makes you smile and stuff that stops you in your tracks and stuff that you’d never notice because you never slowed down enough to see.

The sun finally came up, trying to break through the clouds.

This year the coming of fall has been difficult for me. So I decided to do my Walktober in a place Katie and I had never visited together.

The morning light reflected in the schoolhouse window as I headed to the woods.

I have no memories of her at the Chippewa Nature Center, so there were no ghosts waiting to surprise me at every corner. She would have loved it there, trails through the woods always made her happy. But…no dogs allowed on the nature trails, so I carried her along with me in my heart instead.

Lots of color and shapes to focus on.

Even though Katie had never been here, I visited once, last February. During that trip the weather wasn’t cooperating and I couldn’t find the trailhead, and what I could find was covered in ice. I left after taking only one picture, and you all know that’s just about impossible for me to do.

This visit there was no ice on the trail, just a carpet of beautiful fallen leaves.

So I decided to try again, as a Walktober adventure and this time I definitely got more than one image, though once again the weather wasn’t cooperating.

A bit of fungus, a colorful leaf, against the backdrop of a decaying stump. Art in nature.

There was a mixture of bits of sun, lots of clouds, and, of course torrential rain combined with strong winds. Yep, a good day to wander in the woods.

A carpet worthy of attention.

I was specifically looking for warblers, those little birds that flit around, hiding behind leaves and high up in trees. They’re hard to catch a glimpse of, much less get an actual image. I might have seen one. Or two maybe, but the images were impossible.

Not a great image. And I don’t know what bird this is, with the little yellow dot near the eye.

Not enough light deep in the woods…not fast enough to bring the camera up when I saw something, not sure what I was even looking at.

Don’t know what this is either.

But it was fun trying.

Meanwhile the maple trees are stunning, and the trail, wandering beside the Chippewa River and through the woods was wide and easy walking. There was something pretty no matter where I looked.

Changed the lens to the wide angle for this beautiful spot.

And I can tell you one thing. The birds and animals knew I was in the woods way before I realized they were close.

Pay attention, lady, I’m standing right here!

I tried to take my own advice, learned from many other walks in the woods, to stand still and just wait quietly. I never see anything when I’m walking, even when I’m trying to be quiet.

We’ll let you get this one shot, and then we’re out of here!

I did see lots of birds when I stood quietly under the tall trees. The longer I stood there, the more emboldened the birds became, whizzing right by my head on a few occasions.

Good thing the leaves stood still for me.

I smiled, recognizing that I wasn’t going to get a great image, and relaxed, just enjoying their antics.

The little birds were flying circles around me.

At one point the sun poked out from the clouds and across a ravine I saw a field of red grass glowing. I know how fleeting light can be and there was no way for me to get over there in time, so I continued on with my meandering.

I love it when the sky is dark but some trees are still in the sun’s glow.

That turned out to be a fine decision because I ran into the most beautiful yellow tree while the sun was still shining, the trunk and limbs perfectly black against the gold.

The sun was just on the other side of this tree. For a moment anyway.

Eventually I found a track over to the field of red grasses and was focused on a beautiful tree along the trail when the sky went dark. And then I thought I heard rain coming from far away. But it was coming fast.

Such a pretty spot. Makes you want to linger and enjoy it….unless……is that rain I hear coming my way?

Torrential rain hit as I popped out into the field and assessed how far away the car was, realizing it was too late and too far to sprint. I was going to get wet.

Even the turkeys were heading for cover.

And I did. But that was OK too, the colors just intensified and I smiled as I wiped my glasses and increased my pace through the field.

I need to get way over there.

By the time I got to the car, mopped up a bit and decided to head home, the sun came back out. Of course it did.

I could go explore more trails…but I was soaked all the way through.

And on the way home the clouds were so good I just had to pull off the freeway and grab a shot or two or twelve. There might have been barns involved, but that would be content for another post.

Who could resist this scene?

Thank you Robin, for hosting Walktober again this year. I look forward to it every year, thinking about new places to explore, deciding when to schedule the walk, hoping for great color or at least some interesting new images.

Good advice on a stone at the exit.

I feel kind of sad that it’s finished, but then I remember….I get to go along with all of you on your Walktobers, and I can’t wait to see where you’re taking us this year!

My artsy-fartsy image from my Walktober at Chippewa Nature Center, October 13th, 2022.


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Is it time for Walktober already?

Longtime readers might remember that every October many of us bloggers deliberately take a walk, then post a few (or a lot) of images and descriptions. Robin, over at Breezes at Dawn, hosts the Walktober, compiling everyone’s posts into one at the end of the month.

This year the official dates for Walktober are October 8th through October 24th. But if you need a little bit more time just let Robin know and she’ll try to accommodate you.

Let’s go on a walk!

It’s so much fun to take you all along on a walk. And it’s fun to read everyone else’s post, to explore a part of the country, or the world, that we might never get to visit any other way.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been on two walks, complete with friends and their dogs and I’ve considered whether I should use those walks as my official Walktober.

Deuce and Ace patiently posing.

After all, I was walking, and it was October, and better yet, there were dogs!

But ultimately, though these were both really fun walks, I decided to take you with me to a place I’d never been before. And today I explored a new park.

Jasper enjoys a spot of sunlight.

But today’s images aren’t ready for the public yet, and I knew you wouldn’t want to miss pictures of dogs…so I’m sharing those here.

Maybe you’ve done a Walktober in previous years, or maybe you haven’t but think it would be fun. Either way, I encourage you to take some time out of your day and get outside.

Robin’s rules are easy. Take a walk or ride a bike, jog or go for a drive, just get outside, grab an image or two and then post about your experience. Link your post to this post of hers and she’ll be sure to add you to her list of people enjoying the beautiful October outdoors.

A dignified Jasper pauses for a pose.

And if you’re worried that you don’t have any country trails to share, maybe no autumnal color, well, one year I took everyone to downtown Detroit for my Walktober submission, and had a wonderful time showing you that a city is a great place to walk too.

There are plenty of beautiful days left in October!

Look around you, there’s bound to be something, perhaps your own yard, that you’d like to show us.

Let’s spend October sharing our wonderful worlds with each other. I can’t wait to see something of your part of the world!


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On the way from here to there

I took myself off for a camping adventure this week. First stop was a park Katie and I have visited several times. Most of the time we end up in site 43.

Turns out four years ago yesterday Katie and I were at this very site, packing up, heading for home.

Four years ago at site 43. I don’t want to leave, mama!

But first I took her up to the Mackinaw Bridge, because she had never seen it. She wasn’t all that impressed. And the ride home was extra long because we went north before we went south. But she was a trooper and never complained. Much.

Best rest stop ever, mama!

This trip I stopped at a rest stop just before my exit, because it’s one of Katie’s favorite rest stops. Turns out there was a commercial truck inspection going on. All trucks were mandated to pull off the freeway at the rest stop so commercial vehicle inspectors could check their rigs and their hours of service.

Thank you to Michigan’s State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection team.

I walked over to the table at the front of the inspection line and thanked the two officers there. I told them the truth, that whenever I saw them and a commercial truck pulled over I give them a thumbs up and that it was nice to be able to do that in person.

Then I gave them my Truck Safety Card, thanked them again, and went on my way feeling better about our roads knowing the state police are working on it.

Next month I’ll be in DC again, along with many other families and victims of truck crashes. We’ll be voicing our objections to some things going on (teen truckers) and asking for more changes, (increased minimum insurance, automatic emergency braking on ALL trucks) many of the same changes we’ve been asking ever since I started this journey almost 18 years ago.

Our last press conference, 2019

Change is hard.


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Blackened

I went for a walk at one of my favorite parks a couple days ago. It wasn’t a pretty day but at least it wasn’t raining. Or snowing.

Between winter and spring.

I went because I hadn’t been in awhile and because I was feeling sad about a friend of mine who is going through some tough stuff.

A place to rest and contemplate.

When I got to the park there was a warning at the gate about a prescribed burn. That’s when parts of the land are deliberately burned to ward off weeds and nonnative plants.

A scorched earth walk.

Much of the nature trail area was black, which accentuated the hills that I’m always trying to photograph. For that reason alone I didn’t mind walking along the scorched earth, or the smell that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Overlooking his park, wondering what happened.

As I walked I stopped often to take pictures. No surprise. It took me forever to walk the four miles, but it didn’t feel like forever.

Back in the woods spring is taking hold.

It felt wonderful. Spring is arriving, though slowly. Tiny wildflowers are popping up. More will follow.

So tiny you might miss the evidence of spring right under your feet.

I thought about my friend and hope he is able to come on a walk with me soon. He’d find hope in the woods, even the burned parts.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go.

Of course yesterday, listening to the Supreme Court news, I felt sadness overtaking me again. The world seems to be a darker shade of burned right now.

Nothing but darkness.

I’m trying to remember that deep in the woods hope is poking up from under last years debris.

Little umbrellas of hope.

I think I’m going to need another walk real soon.


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Whiting Overlook Park

After seeing several photographs of eagles and pelicans on Facebook I decided to head up to Midland and see this park for myself.

Nature and industry coexisting.

I could tell from many of the photos that this was not a conventional park filled with hiking trails and wide swaths of woods for wandering.

But I was still surprised to find that it consisted of a parking lot on top of a high hill overlooking ponds which are part of the Dow Chemical complex.

As I drove up the hill I could see an eagle sitting in a tree.

Guarding the park.

The light wasn’t good, a bank of clouds was encroaching on the sunshine I’d left at home, two hours to the south. Still, on occassion when I first arrived, the sun broke through the clouds.

Oh! And a juvinile down below!

And it was windy! Between trying to focus on the eagle who flew out over the water as soon as I arrived, and trying to keep my hair out of the frame, I almost missed the pelicans swimming very close to the edge of the pond, behind the chain link fence.

It was hard shooting through the chain link fence.

While I was trying to catch an image of them, shooting through the fence, I lost track of the eagle until I heard a whole lot of eagle type noises coming from the trees.

Look closely, there are three juviniles here, all landing in a tree.

Turns out there were three juviniles, all landing close together. I’m pretty sure one of them had a fish.

This little diving duck was surprised when he came up right in front of the pelican!

Pretty much the whole time I was there I was pointing the camera either at the water following the pelicans, or the sky trying to get a sharp image of the eagles.

The light felt like it was evening, but it was 9:30 in the morning.

I was facinated how these beautiful wild birds coexisted so well with industry.

Such an unusual place to witness an eagle in flight.

I was unsure if the eagles coexist with each other quite as well.

Looks like the adult has something to say.

Mostly the eagles soared round and round, higher and higher. I never saw any of them dive into the water, though when they were flying closer to the ponds the ducks seemed to scatter.

The sky was interesting, but made shooting the birds so difficult.

It was hard to keep track of the big birds, they were really very far away. Sometimes the only way I knew where they were was their noisy discussion amongst themselves.

The light caught his head and the lead edge of his wing.

When the sun slid out for a moment it was easier to find the adult, with his bright white head…

Sometimes the tail was the give away.

…and tail.

The whole time I was there, sitting in the car until an eagle took off from a tree, then popping out to try to get an image, I didn’t think I got anything worth looking at.

He turned into a painting.

I was shooting pretty much into the light, what light there was. And the birds were so darn far away. These were all shot with my longest lens, and they are still cropped a whole lot. Hence the painterly looking images.

I think I’ll go back some day when the sun is shining brighter, and perhaps later in the day to get the sun behind me rather than shining in my eyes.

The best part of the day was just sitting and watching them fly.

I felt lucky today that they were so active. I didn’t get the perfect eagle (or pelican for that matter) shot, but I got to see them flying, so much more fun than watching them watch me while they sit still on a branch.

Landing gear down, more pelicans arrive.

None of these images are great, but I had fun, and I figured you’d have fun looking at them too.

Soar like an eagle….

If you’re a birder, this would be a fun place to visit with powerful binoculars. You can sit in the car and watch some amazing birds. Can’t beat it! (You might want to look at these pictures on something bigger than your phone!)

The clouds moved in and I moved out.


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Waiting on my numbers

Hey everybody! Katie here.

So most of you know that I’ve been fighting kidney disease for much of this year. I go to the vet every month and donate my blood so the lady vet can see how I’m doing.

Me at my park where they have a children’s storybook walk.

Daddy and mama took me to the vet yesterday, they say I shouldn’t be so scared every time, but they aren’t there in the back room when those vet techs get my blood! I’m starting to feel like a pin cushion, all those needle pricks over the past nine months!

At a rest stop on our way home from the vet yesterday.

It’s scary back there, I tell you, and I’m so glad when they take me back to my daddy; I’m always ready to go go go back out to the car where mama waits impatiently for me.

During one of my neighborhood patrols.

But the lady vet and daddy always have to stand around and talk after I give away my blood. They usually look at all the test results, but this time they just talked about my poop!

Checking out my yard.

Geeze! Can’t a princess have a little privacy about anything? Mama and daddy have been taking pictures of my poop for weeks! I guess having soft runny poop is not a good thing. Who knew?

My yard has a katsura tree and all the leaves fell off in one day!

Now I have medicine to help my poops get back to normal. Mama says we’ll see. Literally I guess, right?

My yard has a ginkgo tree too. It’s leaves also fall off in a single day!

And the test results? The ones that will tell us if I’m getting worse? Well, the lady vet sent my blood out to a lab instead of running the tests right there, so we won’t know until sometime next week.

At my park.

I’ll keep you posted, cause I know you want to know!

Meanwhile, I’m chowing down like the food hog I’ve always been and that makes mama and daddy smile.

A little snow.

I hope you all have a great week, and those of you in the United States enjoy Thanksgiving! Mama and daddy say they are very thankful for me. Well of course they are. And I guess, if I’m honest, I’m very thankful for them too.

Another favorite park.

And I’m also thankful for each of you, my loyal subjects. Thank you for stopping by and reading about my poop during a holiday week. I should probably talk to mama about being more appropriate, but you know how mama is. No sense of decorum, that woman.

I love being in the woods with mama!

Anyway, these photos were taken the past couple of weeks during all the walks at my parks and around the neighborhood that mama’s been taking me on. She says she knows how much I love the colder weather and she wants me to get out and enjoy as much of it as I can.

Just another thing I’m thankful for, fall in Michigan!

Come on, mama!

Talk later, your cool air loving, pincushion girl, Katie.

All this walking makes a princess sleepy.