Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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A conversation

Hey Katie-girl.

Today marks three months since you went over that bridge alone. I think about you every day. But you know that, don’t you.

It’s your favorite time of year, sweetie.

This morning I went to your park to take a walk. It’s the first time I’ve been there alone since you left.

Morning light made the flowers glow.

You know your daddy and I were at your park just after that day, with your Aunt Beth, and she played the bagpipes for you near the pond.

You’d be upset at how much algae is in your pond.

I haven’t been able to go back since, sweetie, not without you. It hurt so much to be a Katie’s Park today, but I had a mission.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

The goldenrod is beautiful this year.

First of all I parked at the township office instead of where you and I always parked. I didn’t think I was ready for everything to be the same and yet so different. So I parked in a different spot.

That helped me get out of the car.

Blue sky and yellow fields.

The park was beautiful, as always. You would have loved it, the air was cool and the sun was just up over the treetops.

Loosestrife, I know it’s invasive but it’s so pretty.

But you wouldn’t have loved getting your feet wet. The path was overgrown, here at summer’s end, and the grass was long and heavy with dew.

You always spent a long time sniffing that corner at the beginning of your path.

The good sniffs might have made up for your wet paws though. I imagine you wouldn’t have grumbled too much, you loved walking in your park so much.

I smiled at that thought.

Lots of wet spider webs. You’d have stuck your nose into a few of them for sure.

I was pretty proud of myself, that I smiled at all. Because mostly I was crying as I walked along. I imagined you everywhere. All our favorite places.

Leaves are beginning to turn. You always looked so good in the fall foliage.

Your turtle friends were out but I didn’t see much else. That might have been because my eyes were all leaky.

I think they were wondering where you’ve been.

It was even hard for me to tell if stuff was in focus on my camera. Yes, silly, of course I brought the camera. Though it wasn’t as much fun without you.

I took a picture of my favorite trees, though it’s hard to understand how they can still be standing when you’re not here.

Anyway, my mission was to hang a memory tag on the remembrance tree. You remember when your Aunt Karen and you and I hung some tags for Reilly and Denny and Norwood, right?

Three beautiful boys remembered. Now there are more we should include.

Well, she had a special tag made for you and she gave it to me after you had to go. I haven’t been able to hang it on the tree until today. I put it right next to your handsome fiancé Reilly’s tag.

Can you read what it says, sweetie? Of course you can.

I know you and Reilly are together now, and you’re both loving the beach and the woods while you wait for your people to arrive. It makes me feel better to know you have so many friends there with you.

Everything in it’s season.

Today I hung your tag at your favorite park, sweetie. I just wanted you to know. Miss you baby-girl.

Love, Mama.

See you around the next curve, Katie-girl.

Well, of course I know mama! Where do you think I was while you were wandering around and crying all over my park? I was right there beside you. Silly mama, I’m always right there beside you. Thanks for hanging my tag, it’s real pretty. Thank Aunt Karen for getting it for me too, OK?

Love you always, mama. Tell daddy I love him too. Got to go now, Reilly wants to go run on the beach.

-Your angel-girl, Katie.


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Hanging with my sister

Katie here. Even though I’m a princess and sometimes come off as being a bit….well…high maintenance, I know that I have a pretty good life. My folks and lots of other people make sure I get to have special times with friends and family.

Sharing my park with my friends.

And this past weekend I got to see my half sister, Payton, and show her (and her parents and her sister Tally the Gordon setter) my park! I was so excited to share Katie’s Park with my sister. And, like sisters do, we joined forces to make sure mama couldn’t get a decent picture of the two of us.

Discussing our strategy to foil mama.

That was part of the fun!

It was a perfect day for a walk, not too hot, and a bit of a breeze to cool those of us still wearing winter coats. The folks made sure we walked at a leisurely pace, though at the beginning I was raring to go!

This is Payton’s mom and dad and her sister Tally!

We stopped at the overlook deck halfway around the park to rest and enjoy the view. I told Payton all about finding a cracker there once and how I’ve been looking ever since for another one. Payton’s dad gave me a treat to make up for the lack of crackers.

“Make sure you remember not to let your mom get us together, Katie!”

I even shared my annual photoshoot in the yellow flowers with Payton! Mama takes my picture over at my park every year during the yellow flower season.

“OK, we can let her have ONE picture of the two of us!”

Payton’s like me – she doesn’t get why that’s so special, but mama is insistent and it’s easier to just let her get the picture than arguing with her.

Tally got her picture taken in the yellow flowers too.

Most of the time, though, we were able to foil mama’s attempts at getting a nice picture of the two of us together. She did manage to get several sweet pictures of Payton though!

She’s such a pretty girl.

I decided it wasn’t all that bad for her to be focused on someone besides me! That way I got to nap mostly uninterrupted under the picnic table.

“Geeze mother, can’t a girl get a break?”

We had a great time and I’m really glad Payton’s parents brought her over for a visit. We decided we’d get together again next fall when it’s cooler outside for another walk.

“Don’t stand still, out of focus pictures mess with mama the most!”

On a much sadder note, we learned yesterday that our friend Sophie got her wings on Friday. It’s a shock because we hadn’t heard that she was ill. She was one year younger than me, and still exploring her yard, swinging with her mom on her swing and supervising everything in the house.

Photo credit, Sophie’s mom.

We will miss her daily posts terribly. Mama has been giving me extra hugs and kisses on top of my head and her eyes are all leaky again. It’s hard to understand why some things happen, but we know that we’ll get to see her again, she’s just on the other side of the bridge. Please send good thoughts to her mom and dad who are very very sad right now.

Sophie on her porch swing this past week. Photo credit, Sophie’s mom.

Talk later, I have to get mom some tissue cause her eyes are damp again. I promise not to shred it immediately, I’ll do that later in honor of Sophie, who, just like me was an expert shredder!

-Your sad but still happy Princess Katie.

Sending hugs and kisses to Sophie’s mom and dad.


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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.


43 Comments

Reading in times of covid

I thought I had lost my love of reading somewhere in the middle of this past year of covid testing and isolation. But Goodreads says I entered the year not enjoying my very first book, Writing in Flow, Keys to Enhanced Creativity by Susan Perry.

“I just couldn’t get into it. I’ll try again.”

I didn’t try again.

And the last book I reviewed, Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout didn’t fare any better.

“I love her writing but I’m glad this one is done.”

There are other reviews for the thirty-four books I read in 2021, but I don’t have the patience to go read the reviews I wrote to find out how many I actually enjoyed. And when I puruse the list I can’t remember the plot to any of them.

In October when I finished the Strout book I had no idea that I wouldn’t read or review another one the rest of the year.

Not reading is troubling. I have always loved to read. I miss reading. You’d think in times of stress that reading would give me an escape, that I’ve be buried in books.

And, in fact, I have plenty of books to read. I’ve started several. There are books about my camera that I need to read, books I’ve seen on daytime television that I’ve purchased impulsively, a book my aunt lent me sits on the table next to my chair.

I have no “number of books read” goal for 2022. Rather, I think, my goal this year will be to find again the pleasure of reading. I should probably start soon. January is almost half over. Who has a recomendation for something light, happy, hopeful or heartwarming?

I could sure use a librarian about now.

My anti-reading dog.


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When Katie smiles

We’re on a roller-coaster around here. Katie has mostly good days, but even during those I can sometimes detect, if I’m observant, her underlying kidney disease.

During an early morning neighborhood walk today.

When I took her to a park to celebrate her 15th birthday a couple weeks ago, I thought we were both having fun. She was walking through the woods with me, sniffing things like always. But our walk was much shorter than normal, and when I looked at the photos after, I didn’t see the usual joy in her eyes. She wasn’t smiling in any of the images.

It was a frosty sort of morning.

That made me stop and really think about the quality of her life, and whether or not she would let me know when she was done. It’s hard to consider end of life procedures when she’s still excited about her meals, still wants to go outside. Still wags her whole behind when you walk in the door.

Is still so beautiful.

You know it’s my supper time again. Right mama?

And then we had a day like today, sunshine and 30 degree temperatures. Perfect sheltie weather. We went on multiple walks around the neighborhood, none of which she wanted to end.

Today, checking her park.

We went to her park — I was thinking we’d just walk around the pond, sure that she wouldn’t have the stamina to walk all the way around the park.

What are you doing taking pictures, mama? We have a whole park to explore!

But once we were there I let her make the decisions and she never once sat down or asked me to pick her up. We took it slow, but we walked all the way around her park’s perimeter, just about a mile.

It sure is a pretty day mama. I get a treat for posing, right?

That, on top of all the walks in the neighborhood should have exhausted her, but she’s been asking for her (numerous) meals right on schedule. And we’ve been on another walk around the neighborhood this evening.

It was a good day, mama!

I’ve looked at the images I took during our park adventure today. I’m pretty sure she was smiling. I guess it’s not time yet. Not today anyway, probably not tomorrow or the day after that either.

Yep, I’m still the Princess Katie and this is my park!

My girl. She and I are lucky we have more time together.

Still so beautiful.


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Vacuum cleaner blues

Katie didn’t bark at the vaccum cleaner this morning. If she was a young dog I’d be thrilled, certain that I’d desensitized her, trained her not to go balistic whenever I pulled it out of the closet.

But she’s barked at that vaccum every single time I’ve used it for the past fifteen years.

This morning she just looked at me with sad eyes and wandered off to nap.

My eyes are leaky.


54 Comments

The Princess celebrates a birthday

Katie here! Guess what, guess what, guess what??!!

Today is my 15th birthday! I wanted to share it with all of you because I was sure there would be balloons and presents tied up in pretty ribbon and visitors singing to me, and of course, cake!

I got to go on a birthday walk over the weekend! Don’t tell anyone but it’s not really a wilderness.

I mean, 15 is a milestone age, right?

There were a few times this year my folks didn’t think I’d get to see this day. With the surgery back in April to save my life when my gall bladder filled up with sludge and then the harsh antibiotics I had to take because they found infection in me and then the kidney disease…well…things haven’t always look so good this year.

The late afternoon light was amazing.

Mama says it’s been a roller coaster. I don’t know what that means cause I never get to do anything fun, but I can tell mama and daddy have been stressed.

All the more reason to spend today celebrating me and eating cake! I’m sure you agree.

Years ago there were farm fields here, this is part of a rock fence line.

But mama says I need to be more realistic, and that cake isn’t good for me, and balloons would just scare me and that I can’t expect people to just show up and start singing to me. Besides I’m deaf, so singing might not be the best way to celebrate.

Plus she said I’d just bark at people and balloons anyway.

So you know what we’re doing instead? We’re going to the vet, that’s what we’re doing!

We didn’t walk real far, but I was so glad to be in the woods!

Yes, you read that right. Mama made a vet appointment for me on my birthday. I swear the woman has no sense of appropriatness at all.

I’m just a little girl in the big woods.

To be honest, she didn’t make the appointment until yesterday. And she only made it because I’ve been throwing up after I eat. Three times this past week. She and daddy are worried and the vet said to get me in there, so she scheduled it even though it was my birthday.

This was a giant fungus. Mama made me pose next to it a few years ago too.

And then she said seeing the vet and making sure we do everything we can to make me more comfortable is the best present they could give me.

I guess. But cake would have been good too. Just saying.

This was a nice spot to stop and rest. Or get a treat.

I did get a real present from my daddy this past weekend. It came in a box from the nice guy who drives the big noisy brown truck. I got to sniff it and everything. I was excited because everything that comes into this house should be for me.

What’s in there daddy?

I’m sure you agree.

Daddy ordered it for me after mama told him I was having trouble eating out of my bowl on the floor. My bad right foot kept slipping out to the side as I tried to get my head way down there.

Those of you that are older like me know how hard it is to get up off the floor the older you get. Well, I was having trouble getting my nose way down there into the bowl, but I love eating so I wasn’t complaining.

Hey daddy! This is perfect!

The day mama noticed my problem she ended up holding the bowl up higher for me, and letting me brace my sliding foot against her. Eating is much easier with a little help.

I just love the dinner and water dish thingy daddy got me! It’s the perfect height for a girl of my stature. And it has the perfect angle too, though it’s designed to have the bowls propped up at an angle or flat. I like them propped up.

You really get me, don’t you daddy!

So I can’t say I didn’t get anything for my birthday. I just didn’t get cake. Mama is such a strict dietitian. If any of you want to sneak me a treat I won’t tell.

And if you want to sing to me while you’re slipping me that biscuit, I’ll smile and pretend I can hear you.

A birthday walk AND a new dinner dish. Guess my birthday wasn’t a complete washup after all.

Talk later,

Your 15 year old Katie-girl.

Birthday nap. Daddy got me the pink princess rug too.


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Life is short, no matter how long you’ve got

Katie and I spent Halloween day wandering together under beautiful blue skies. The leaves here are finally turning, and in the early morning light they were spectacular. Walking under them, with my girl, watching the light shift and glow was special.

On the way to our early morning adventure.

When Katie got sick last spring we hoped we could get her to fall, when the temperatures drop and she has, in the most recent years, transformed from a middle aged, lethargic dog of summer into a youngster who throughly enjoys her walks.

I love this rug, mama, it compliments my beauty!

Somehow, in the fall, she turns back time and prances during her walks in the woods and around the neighborhood. But this year, the year we needed those cooler temperatures to hurry up so she could enjoy them, October held on to summer with an iron grip.

I’ll sit here for you mama, but you better have treats!

I enjoyed those warm days with temperatures in the 70s, but worried that Katie and I wouldn’t get our cool walks in the woods. So on the last day of October, with early morning temperatures dropping and as the sun began to creep up into the sky, Katie and I headed out in search of adventure.

Don’t you just love this weather, mama?

We stopped first in Milford, a town that always dresses the storefronts for fall, complete with a giant pumpkin in front of a fancy restaurant. For the past few years I’ve taken Katie there for a photo shoot.

Hey mama! THIS is the giant pumpkin you talked about??

This year we were disappointed, as the entire town is dug up with some sort of construction project, and the giant pumpkin was less than giant. Still, we walked around town for a little bit. Like the princess she is, she insisted on doing some window shopping, checking out every single shop doorway. That made me smile.

Anything good in here, mama?

So I took a window shot of the two of us.

Me and my girl.

But we didnt stay in town long, we headed out to my favorite park, and to her favorite walk in that park. The color as the sun rose was spectacular.

I was giggling like a schoolgirl it was so pretty.

And walking there, on a service road through the trees with my girl, I contemplated the shortness of life. Though her numbers were better at the last vet visit, Katie is still near the end of her life.

Isn’t this amazing, mama?

She’s a happy girl, and good at hiding her discomfort. She still likes to go on adventures, she still loves her suppers. She still loves us. But sometime, maybe sooner then later, we’re going to have to make that hard decision.

Light and color ease the angst.

And it’s not just her. I’ve been dog sitting for a neighbor whose husband had a combination of cancer and heart disease. He’s been in the hospital for the last few weeks, and this week, when she thought he was coming home, he died.

I always feel better when I’m near water.

He was a very nice man, loved his garden, his wife, his dogs. I’d talk to him when I was out walking Katie. He’d always tell me what he was planning for next year’s garden, “if I’m still here,” he’d say. Now his flowers are still blooming in our long, extended fall, but he isn’t here.

A bit of fall trapped in last summer’s volleyball net.

I dog sat for his two pups while his wife and family attended his funeral. I would have gone myself, but my time was better spent taking care of the two little dogs who have lost their man.

Be like me, mama, live in the moment.

And another friend just had surgery, leaving her two cats at home for the duration. She had someone to come in and take care of them, but I stopped by to play with them too. They always came running for a tummy rub, or a romp through a tunnel. I enjoyed spending time with them, but they’re so much happier now that their person is back home.

I love it out here mama.

And there’s my own family member who has spent the last two weeks in the hospital and had major surgery too. She has a long road ahead of her, and though she has no pets for me to take care of, she’ll still need some visits and perhaps help with some household chores.

Nature’s art installation.

It has seemed like trouble and tragedy is everywhere. But it’s easier to bear while walking through a beautiful woods with my girl. And someday, hopefully far in the future, when I don’t have my girl walking next to me, well, I’ll have the memories, and the pictures. And that will have to do.

Mama? Do you feel better now?

I’m grateful that I have had so many years with her. I’m grateful I knew my neighbor and his gardens. I’m grateful to the friend with the cats, and the long life of my relative now recuperating at home.

Life is a road, mama.

But sometimes…sometimes it feels like time has flown, and life is short, and there’s just no way to slow it all down.

Don’t try to figure it out, mama. It’s all going to be OK.


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Nothing to say

I sit here with a few pictures from around the yard to share but nothing to say.

Daddy red-bellied woodpecker is back after raising his kids.

Everything seems bigger than my words. Sadder.

Daddy’s girl follows him to the deck for breakfast.

There’s Hurricane Ida leaving devastation from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.

Early morning light.

There’s the covid resurgance in my state and most of the country.

Afternoon sun makes everything brighter.

There’s kids going back to school while parents and school boards shout at each other over masks.

Wasps are storming the hummingbird feeder. I took it down for a couple of days.

There’s Texas.

The hummers are unhappy with me.

I need to look seriously for the good that I always say is there amongst all the trouble.

Shadows everywhere.

A good long walk in the woods might help.

I don’t know what these are, they are tiny, hidden in the messy wildflower garden.

But there are those mosquitoes.

And I know just the place to take a walk, too.


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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.