Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


13 Comments

Grief gets all mixed together.

Today, in fact this entire week, has been filled with sad images on television.

Here in Detroit it’s been a week of celebrating the life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, who died two weeks ago. There’s been days of public viewing, with lines of people stretching for blocks, all waiting in heat indexes over 100 degrees to pay their respect. Her funeral is tomorrow. Local news stations seem to broadcast little else.

And Senator John McCain died last Saturday and the national news has been filed with his story, work and funeral arrangements. I watched his Arizona funeral today. One of the television pundits commented, as we watched the family file in, that she couldn’t imagine how his seven children were feeling at the loss of their father.

I silently noted that she must not have lost a parent yet. Because if she had she’d know how easy it is to imagine how they feel.

“You didn’t have your dad as long as you’d like, but you got everything you need from him.”*

Watching them during the service, and especially as they followed the casket back out after I was right back at my mother’s funeral, and at my dad’s a few months later.

I know the feeling of standing, knees weak, at the pulpit and staring out over a standing-room-only crowd wondering if I could get the words out. I remember how it felt to smile after, shaking hands, accepting hugs, while all the time feeling totally numb.

“This I promise you – you know you’re going to make it when one day you see an image of your dad and a smile touches your lips before a tear fills your eye.”*

I know the feeling of disbelief. I know that it feels like you’re walking through mud, how the days each last an eternity, yet fly by too quickly. How that final goodbye shreds your insides.

And then this afternoon, on a highway out in New Mexico, a semi truck had a tire malfunction and crossed the median, striking a Greyhound bus head on. There are multiple deaths. Even more injuries. Families are even now receiving that phone call.

The cycle of loss never ends.

Today I seem to be enveloped in grief. Old grief for my family, new grief at recent national losses. Stabbing grief at the knowledge that more families are, tonight, beginning their own personal trek through darkness.

But I know what Joe Biden knows. That tomorrow will be a new day and the sun will shine again. And those of us that feel the pain this deeply are the lucky ones. Because we knew true love.

And true love never dies.

*Quotes above are paraphrased from Vice President Biden’s eulogy for John McCain today. They touched something inside of me, because he was exactly right.


15 Comments

Goodbye Senator

Regardless of whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent or none of the above, tonight you have to feel some sadness at the passing of Senator John McCain. A decent man who tried to solve problems through bipartisan support, he repeatedly spoke up against the inertia that is Congress. He was frustrated, as many of us are, by today’s political wheel spinning, by the lack of progress, by the rhetoric.

Maybe now we should take a moment and think about the lessons he was trying to teach us. That regardless of our own beliefs it’s always important to listen, really listen, to an opposing viewpoint. That we need to remember the art of compromise. That we can’t solve anything without support from both sides of the aisle

That not everyone across the aisle is an enemy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in his memory, we all try to be more open, more accepting of differences, more willing to try to understand opposing viewpoints. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in his memory, members of Congress pull back on the rhetoric and work together to solve issues for the good of the country.

And wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in his memory, we all stepped up our attempts to be decent human beings. Regardless of political leanings.

Seems to me that would be an appropriate thank you for a life well lived.


18 Comments

How to smash a whole lot of stuff into one weekend.

I’m retired, so one day is pretty much like another. Weekends have no real significance, and Monday is now my favorite day of the week because most of you go back to work and I don’t have to.

Welcome to the 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise!

I know. That’s just cruel.

But then again sometimes weekends are filled with so many fun things that I actually am sorry to see them end. Like this past one.

It started out with me volunteering on a campaign for a woman who is running for Congress in my district. Our district has been represented in Congress by one party for as far back as I can remember. This year there’s a serious contender, a woman with military experience, who has worked for the Pentagon and was willing to sit with my husband and I for over an hour discussing truck safety issues.

It’s unique.

She’s got my vote.

So, though I am not political and have never worked on a campaign before, Saturday morning found me sitting in a small stuffy room with several other people my age, all of us peering through our bifocals at our laptops as a young campaign worker explained the data entry project we volunteered to help with.

Good to have a matching umbrella to ward off the sun.

She was so patient with us as we fumbled through connecting to their WiFi, stumbled over the password, then tried to understand the data entry program. Never once did she roll her eyes, though I have to admit I did at least once.

Lots of color and detail.

Turns out she had just graduated from high school, and was taking a gap year before she went to college just to work on this campaign. Amazing. She was nineteen and had the ability to make us not feel stupid when we asked questions as we worked through the huge pile of reports filed with information from volunteers out canvasing neighborhoods.

It wasn’t restricted to just cars.

Her enthusiasm was contagious and we willingly worked past the time we originally committed to get the job done.

And to reward myself for sitting in that small room straining my eyes for hours I took myself to the Woodward Dream Cruise that was happening in a town not so far away.

There was plenty for sale if you caught the car bug.

If you’re asking what that is, well, you’re not from around here.

In the old days, on Friday and Saturday nights the locals would drive their muscle cars up and down Woodward Avenue, through and between several towns. These days, for one weekend every August, people come from all over the country, some bringing their antique muscle cars, to do the same.

Muscle from the old days.

The streets are lined with people who enjoy watching the beautiful cars go by. Parking lots are filled with more of the vehicles.

Lots of money in this lot next door to the Porsche dealership.

They’re everywhere.

Back in the neighborhood a few blocks away from the main drag.

I fell in love with this pair of vehicles.

There’s a sort of elegance that most cars today lack. I guess we’re more functional and less stylish these days.

I enjoyed wandering around, though I walked less than one mile down Woodward Avenue, and spent maybe an hour there. I loved taking pictures of old cars, the lines so beautiful, the colors so vibrant.

Hard to miss this one!

Anyway. That was Saturday. Sunday a college friend and I went kayaking at my favorite park.

Spending Sunday morning on a lake. Perfect.

We rented kayaks there, for only $8 an hour. We told the (very) young lady there we’d be out for an hour at most, after all we were old. She smiled politely.

Pretty.

We were out for 2 hours and I’m not even sore this morning. Pretty good for a couple of old broads!

Two hours later the skies began to cloud.

And I slept out in the backyard in the tent all weekend too, getting geared up to take at least one camping trip this summer…before summer slides away!

Katie says she hasn’t gone on one camping trip all summer. She says that’s unacceptable. I have to agree.

Stay tuned.

These looked fun too, maybe next time!


18 Comments

365 walks

I’m walking a challenge along with Robin over at breezes at dawn and who knows how many other people, each taking a walk every day for an entire year and posting on Facebook (and maybe other places too) each day one photo of what we’ve seen.

It was a great morning for a walk.

I’m a little over 100 days into it. In the beginning it was a bit intimidating, thinking about three hundred and sixty-five walks. But Robin made a good point. Nothing in the rules said how long the walk had to be. And as long as I don’t think about how many I have left to do, as long as I just think about today’s walk, well, it’s all good.

Some days I go for a walk down the road and through my neighborhood. Some days I drive to a park and walk a trail in the woods or a bike path along a lake shore. Once, in bad weather, I took myself to the mall for my walk. No matter where I go there’s always something interesting or pretty or both to capture.

The goldenrod is starting to bloom.

And some days it’s just Katie and me walking around the backyard. She likes those days best lately because it’s been way too hot for her to take a longer walk at any of her favorite parks. She says this will be a great challenge in cooler October or November or even December when the snow will start to fly.

Husband and I stayed out late last night, unusual for us, at an election party where we got to watch the returns come in and cheer when our candidate won the local primary. I’d never done that before, sit with a group of strangers hoping that it all turns out, cheering when it does. I hate politics but this year perhaps the need to become involved will supersede my need to avoid conflict. We’ll see, it certainly is fodder for another blog.

Joe Pye is tucked into all the wet places.

Anyway, I went to bed well after midnight, and Katie was up at her usual 3:30. It was tempting to try to go back to sleep on the sofa after she got the attention she was craving. And I did for a couple hours.

But while it was still morning and the air was reasonably cool I headed out to a park with the intent to walk four miles. I don’t know why four. It just seemed like a nice round number.

Leaning into the sun.

I didn’t want to go. I wanted to crawl back into bed, but Katie was in a mood and I was tired of arguing with her. All in all, the choice between hanging out with a needy dog and going for a walk turned out to be easy.

Leaves already turning?

What a beautiful day! From the parking lot there’s a mile long downhill through a meadow before the bike path turns into the woods. I got a lot of nice pictures out in the open, and then another nice group deeper in the woods. That’s what makes this a great park to walk in…until you have that mile long uphill back to the car.

A splash of unexpected color.

I had a lot of things to think about on this walk, and I hummed (quite loudly as there was no one else there) songs from Fiddler on the Roof, a musical I was lucky enough to see on Saturday evening. If I were a rich man….. A blessing on your head, mazel tov, mazel tov…Tradition!….Anatevka….

I wondered, as I did Saturday night, what kind of welcome Tevye, Golda and their two young daughters would find if they were to arrive in the United States today. Would they be granted entry given their town had been forcibly evacuated? Would the young girls be separated from their parents?

I hate to imagine what might happen to them today. But I also know that their passage to America and their life here wouldn’t have been easy in the early twentieth century either. That’s what makes politics hard; there are so many variables to every decision and policy.

Anyway.

As I walked I tried not to mourn summer. I missed so much of the Michigan summer when I was in Alabama, and suddenly it seems like school is starting and corn is ripening and goldenrod is blooming and summer is almost over.

Bursts of gold in the meadow.

I scolded myself for not being in the moment. After all there are still three weeks of August. And even though there was subtle signs everywhere of the impending fall, there was still plenty of green. Dark green, lime green, green glowing in the sun, green hiding deep in the woods, it’s definitely still summer here.

Light shining through.

Mostly.

So this long, rambling post is sort of a stream of consciousness thing, wrapping everything that’s been going on into one long walk. Talented kids putting on a wonderful performance on Saturday, dedicated people campaigning with all their hearts for a candidate they feel is better than who we have now, all morphed together on a golden Wednesday morning.

There were butterflies everywhere. And me with only my phone for a camera.

Four miles flew by and no concrete conclusions were reached.

Guess I’ll have to go on another walk tomorrow.

Darn.

Two miles out, two miles back.


16 Comments

Truck Safety – the details

It’s a very busy place, Washington DC.


It all started when my dad was killed by a tired semi-truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t see the traffic stopped ahead of him early in the morning of December 23, 2004.

Since them members of my family have been traveling to Washington DC regularly to tell our story and lobby for safety on our nation’s roads. This past week my husband and I were there again, talking to the staff of House Representatives and Senators, as well as people at the DOT, about the bigger, heavier, longer trucks that are once again being proposed by some in the trucking industry.

Riding the metro to the Hill on a beautiful day.

Back in 2015 double 33 foot trailers were proposed by the trucking industry, they say because of a driver shortage. What they didn’t say is that adding 5 feet on each of two trailers, hauled in tandem, made the entire truck 83 feet, 8 inches long. That’s similar to an 8 story building. Try passing that on a busy freeway.

We worked long hours and got back to the hotel after dark most nights.

They also don’t tell you that it will take longer to stop, that the back trailer doesn’t track correctly going around corners and that they’re harder to drive, requiring a special endorsement on a driver’s commercial license.

In one of the lady’s rooms, mid century modern makeup chairs.

There’s already a shortage of drivers, finding experienced drivers to haul double 33 foot trailers isn’t going to be easy.

Mountain sculpture in the Hart Senate Building lobby.

Aside from the safety issues, many companies ship their goods ‘intermodal’ meaning they move over land on rails as well as highways, and across the ocean on ships. The 33 foot trailers won’t fit on rail cars as they are configured now, and container ships may have to change the way the trailers are stacked as well. Some people fear that smaller transport companies will be forced out of business as shippers and brokers move to the more competitive larger trailers to ship their goods, regardless of the level of safety attributed to these trailers.

Waiting for a shuttle I thought the metro lines above were interesting.

There’s an appropriations bill in the House of Representatives right now. It’s the kind of bill that ‘must pass’ because it funds most of the Federally mandated programs across the country. Some members of Congress have added amendments to the bill that we consider anti truck safety. Allowing for a study of the double 33 foot trailers is one of these amendments.

It wasn’t all work. We ate dinner down on the wharf near an old torpedo factory that has been turned into an artist loft.

You might think that we shouldn’t be afraid of studying something, and normally I’d agree. But there isn’t much data out there on double 33s, they are running on some roads of certain states, but not many. We’re concerned that the trucking industry will fund studies of their own, and of course those will be favorable.

Right now the amendment is still in the appropriations bill. An amendment offered by another Representative to strip it from the bill failed by a few votes. So we have work to do.

We walked up and down a lot of stairs.

And this is just one issue. There are so many more that I want to tell you about. We worked all week on the Hill, talking about speed limiters, hours of service, underride crashes and the bill sitting in Congress right now, Stop Underride, that needs to move out of committee.

One afternoon we even got to take some time off and visit the national zoo!

We walked between appointments, from the House side to the Senate side of the Hill and back again, in the hot, humid air of summer in DC. It was hard. But getting the call about Dad was harder and I reminded myself how important this all is.

And yes we got lucky and saw the famous pandas.

I know truck safety is not everyone’s thing. And I know some of you will have differing opinions on how to solve the problem of truck crashes on our highways. I have so much more to tell you, and to show you, about our trip to DC last week. But this is already too long, too boring, and just a little stressful.

We had one peaceful evening on the Mall.

So I put a few photos in for relief — just in case you’d rather just look at cool stuff. I’m OK with that too.

Studying before an appointment.

I’ll tell you more about our work in another post. Stay tuned.

The flight home was thankfully incident free.


10 Comments

Retirement interruption

I interrupt this retirement to go back to work in DC, trying to be a catalysis for change, trying to get people with power to stop and listen, to open their minds to the possibility of doing something a different way.

To open their minds to the fact that they have the power to save lives.

It’s no easy task.

It’s only Wednesday and I’m already exhausted.

Stay tuned.


17 Comments

Flying back into the fray

We’re back in D.C., ready to work for safer roads.

Flying east with hope

We got in late last night; our flight was delayed due to mechanical problems. We arrived at the hotel long past dinner time having only eaten breakfast many hours prior.

The Potomac River gleams pink as we bank into D.C.

The hotel staff was helpful in finding us one last restaurant that would deliver though they were official closed for the evening. It’s nice when people go out of their way to be helpful.

Flaps up we’re in the Capitol now.

We can only hope the lawmakers we’ll be talking to about bigger and heavier trucks are as thoughtful.

Luggage in tow we’re going to work now.


28 Comments

Randomness

Snow attack on the back yard.


It’s snowing here in lower Michigan. Nothing surprising about that, it is after all early February. They say we’ll get five or more inches and that it will snow all day.

Maybe all weekend.

With the weather forecast in mind I stopped at the grocery store on my way home last night. I and about a hundred of my best friends shopped mindlessly, wandering up and down the aisles not sure what I wanted, not sure what I had at home, just sure that I needed something.

Goldfinch scans his food options.

Pushing my shopping cart across the parking lot into the wind driven snow I noticed a woman in a car driving out of the lot. Something about the way she held her head, or her haircut, something about her made me think, for a moment, that it was Janet Yellen. Her last day as Chair of the Federal Reserve was just last week.

Sometimes things are just upside down.

Obviously, now that she had time, she needed to stock up before the snow arrived just like me. It didn’t occur to me that it was highly unlikely she’d be in my town in rural Michigan on a snowy Thursday night.

This much snow makes me want to drink too.

No, the reason I discounted the whole idea was that certainly Janet Yellen doesn’t shop for her own groceries.

Snow can be very isolating.

Or does she?

It’s warmer in a crowd.


20 Comments

All I want for Christmas – ELDs

Dad and his camper parked among commercial trucks ten years before he was killed.


My dad was killed by a tired commercial truck driver early on the morning of December 23, 2004. Dad was driving to the Atlanta airport to catch a flight north for Christmas. The driver of the semi, who didn’t see all the lanes of traffic stopped up ahead of him, had been driving all night in an attempt to get a shipment of electronics to an Atlanta retailer in time for Christmas sales.

Back in those days commercial drivers recorded the hours they drove in paper logs; safety advocates sometimes called these logs comic books because of the amount of made up information that got recorded. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, so it benefited them financially to drive further and faster, maybe even further and faster than was legal.

So after dad was killed, and I began to learn more about what happened, I began to work toward mandated electronic logging devices, ELDs. Last Monday, December 18, 2017, thirteen years after dad died, my wish came true. Trucks are now required to have electronic logging devices, and though some truckers are still opposed to what they consider is a infringement on their right to privacy, or their right to make a living, and though I’m sure there will be some unintended consequences, I’m happy.

As far as I’m concerned this was a very big, very important, Christmas present to the families of people killed and injured by tired truckers across the country. And, if they’re honest, perhaps it’s a gift to the drivers too, because it will be harder for an employer to push a driver past legal limits now that everything is monitored by ELDs.

ELDs might have happened without the Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers pushing legislators for years. The American Trucking Association (ATA) which represents big truck companies wanted them too, so for once we were on the same side of an argument. But I have to think it was stories of regular people like us that helped tip the balance and get this technology mandated. So to all of you out there that have supported our work, for this gift of safety that begins this holiday season, I say thank you.

I think I’ll consider the ELD mandate as a personal Christmas present sent straight from dad.


14 Comments

Tidal wave

Tonight on my drive home from visiting Aunt Vi I heard Keith Urban’s song Female. The lyrics caught my attention and I turned up the volume.

When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl
How does that hit you?
Is that such a bad thing?
When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world
Do you believe it?
Will you live to see it?

When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just cause she was wearing a skirt
Now is that how it works?
When somebody talks about how it was Adam first
Does that make you second best?
Or did he save the best for last?

Click the link above for the complete lyrics, and short interviews by the song writers Shane McAnally, Ross Cooperman, and Nicolle Gaylon. Urban has a statement there too. The piece was written in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault claims.

The claims against people continue daily. It seems at times like a tidal wave of voices clamoring to be heard and it can be overwhelming, almost desensitizing.

Some want it to stop.

I understand that. We seem to be trapped in a bad loop, the stories of abuse overlapping each other. And worse, sometimes it’s people we’ve held in high regard being accused of outrageous behavior.

It’s hard to watch.

But here’s the thing. Each of these voices deserves to be heard. And the volume, as huge as it seems to be, is only on a small percentage of the total outrageousness that has happened for years.

For years and years.

Some of us see these stories and think that the things that happened to us aren’t that bad, not life changing nor life threatening. It was just the way things were ‘back then.’ And we don’t join in the tidal wave because we feel that what happened to us wasn’t that significant.

But by staying silent we help keep the whole truth from being told. These incidents will continue to be under reported. The problem won’t seem as big as it really is. Maybe some people will think that it has resolved itself.

Clearly it has not.

I think back to my early days at work when four of us, newly out of college, were hired on the same day for the same position. We were all management trainees, assigned periods of time in different departments. When review time came around I found out that another trainee was given a bigger raises than me. I asked why. Turns out it was because he was a young man with a family. I was a single woman. I protested but got nowhere.

Later in my early career I was working in an appraisal department, I was supposed to be trained in the work of an appraiser. Everyone in that department was male. I spent the first several weeks sitting in the office answering the phone while the men went out and did appraisal work. I complained. A vice president came down to talk to the head appraiser. I could hear voices raised in the office behind me. “What am I supposed to do with her?” When the weather got bad they sent me out with a tape measure and a clipboard to measure houses while they counted the rooms and took pictures inside.

In another department the manager in charge told me he liked my blouse while staring at my chest. I mostly tried to avoid him, and when he abruptly left the company years later I was glad and not surprised. There was no talk about why he no longer worked for us but I could guess.

Decades later I was patted on the butt by a passing manager and when I complained to management was told I probably imagined it because he was a ‘nice guy.’ Yes he was a nice guy. But I didn’t imagine it.

None of these incidents were as bad as the events claimed by Harvy Weinstein’s accusers. Or Charlie Rose’s or Bill Cosby’s. But they were events that happened to me, and probably to other women that I knew.

The culture was such that you didn’t talk about these things. Because you weren’t believed, because you needed your job. Because the men were always in places of power. And because you weren’t.

So I hope the news doesn’t move on to the next big story. I hope more women feel powerful enough to talk about what happened to them. I hope more people realize that it’s been everywhere. And more importantly, that it still is everywhere.

More people, people with power, men or women, need to make it clear that behavior that many of us have experienced will not be tolerated. I hope that people who have in the past or are still suffering from various forms of abuse will feel supported and encouraged to say something.

I hope that eyes are being opened.

Meanwhile, many thanks to songwriters McAnally, Cooperman, Gaylon and artist Urbin for writing what many of us have been feeling.

I hope this truly is the beginning of change, that the world will be significantly different when the tidal wave recedes. But darn, change is hard.